Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe

Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe


Josef Fares (2005)

Sweden, UK, Denmark

Genre: Coming-of-age story

Set in Beirut in 1987 during the civil war, eleven-year-old Zozo and his family are about the emigrate to Sweden, where they are planning to join his grandparents who have already emigrated. Zozo is particularly close to his mother and is afraid that one day she may abandon him but his mother assures him that she'd rather leave the world than leave him. Life in war-torn Beirut is depicted as both hazardous and normal: on the one hand, there are air raids and explosions at night, the city is a heap of rubble and men with machine guns suddenly open fire in the streets. On the other hand, Zozo goes to school, learns French, meets his friends and, one day, finds a deserted chick. He is very protective about the chick and determined to take it to Sweden with him. In his imagination the chick can talk and he embarks on conversations with his new friend.

On the day of the family's departure for Sweden, their flat is hit by a bomb—Zozo and his older brother, who were not in the house at the time, survive. His brother and Zozo try to make their way to the airport alone, but on the way his brother, too, gets killed. Zozo, now all alone with his chick in a red handbag, continues his journey, making another friend on the way: Riad. Riad, a young girl who suffers from the violent authoritarian rule of her father, offers him shelter for one night.  She wants to flee with Zozo  and runs away from home, but she has no passport her father tracks her down and takes her back home. 

Zozo arrives in Sweden, where his grandparents welcome him with open arms and offer him a new loving home. Zozo learns Swedish and attends school. Here he encounters considerable hostility and racism. While his grandfather encourages him to fight back when a gang of boys harass him, Zozo detests any form of violence and aggression. As the elaborate, dream-like flashback sequences suggest, which depict Zozo amidst the explosions and shooting on the streets of Beirut and being reunited with his loving mother, the experience of civil war has made him such a pacifist. He would rather be called a coward and ridiculed by his classmates than get involved in a fight. However, he succeeds in forging a friendship with Leo, a timid boy, whose father beats him and whose classmates ostracise him. The film's final scene shows Leo and Zozo together with Zozo's grandparents in a rural idyll, fishing in a lake and laughing, the suggestion being that Zozo will overcome the trauma of loss and violence in his new home, Sweden. 

Key themes: coming-of-age; death of parents; emigration; war; violence (oppressive violent fathers); racism in adopted country.



Posted by Daniela Berghahn on 24 May 2007 •





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