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This movie won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

‘Journey of Hope’ (NR)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 17, 1991

Swiss filmmaker Xavier Koller eloquently depicts an immigrant family's failed quest for a better life in the noble but arduous "Journey of Hope." Winner of the 1990 Best Foreign Film Oscar, the Turkish language film follows a naive Kurdish farmer, his wife and their 7-year-old son on a foolhardy trek from their poor dusty village to the rich Alpine pastures of Switzerland.

Necmettin Cobanoglu of "Yol" plays Haydar, a 35-year-old father of seven who is tormented by his inability to provide a good life for his family. Upon receiving an effusive postcard from a relative who stole into Switzerland, Haydar decides to sell the land and the livestock, leave the kids with their grandparents and join his cousin in this "paradise" of yogurt-giving goats. With difficulty, he persuades his more sensible wife, Meryem (Nur Surer), to come along so she too can make some money working in a chocolate factory.

At the last minute, the couple decide to bring their brightest child (Emin Sivas) along so that he might get a good education. Though the dangers increase disastrously, the little boy proves an asset. A cheerful scamp with huge candy kiss eyes, he easily makes friends with a burly Swiss truck driver who decides to drive them to their destination. But that would be too easy.

Koller's is a relentlessly tragic story of frightened people without resources or language, a loving nuclear family pitted against greedy Turkish smugglers and stiff Swiss immigration laws. While they encounter good Samaritans along the way, the three eventually face not only the worst in their fellow man, but in nature. Abandoned in the Italian Alps with a small band of like-minded Kurds, they are left to climb the last 3,000 feet to paradise in a snowstorm. All of Meryem's worst fears are realized during that treacherous flight, when Haydar's bad judgment costs them not only their remaining possessions but even hope itself.

Hauntingly photographed and caringly made, "Journey of Hope" addresses the immigrants' plight with plenty of compassion, yet has very little left over for its audiences. Less a drama than a list of grievances, Koller captures not hope but despair.

"Journey of Hope" is unrated but contains no violence, sex or profanity. In Turkish with English subtitles.

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