“To a Land Unknown”, bittersweet comedy by Mahdi Fleifel


“To A Land Unkwown,” by Mahdi Fleifel. EUROZOOM


Born in Dubai, raised in a camp in Lebanon, settled in Denmark, trained in England, passed through the Cinéfondation in Cannes: it is believed that the Palestinian Mahdi Fleifel knows what he is talking about when he talks about refugee status.

It is on this condition that he devotes, at the age of 44, his first feature film, between a dramatic chronicle and a discreet smile, however fatalistic, in the corner. We will be grateful to him: certain messages steeped in bitterness find their way more easily to minds when they affect a certain lightness.

We could thus define To a Land Unknown (To an unknown country) like a buddy movie (a buddy film) Beckettian. The tandem, languishing in an illegal squat in Athens, is called Chatila and Reda. They are actually cousins. The first – played by Mahmood Bakri, scion of a famous dynasty of Palestinian actors – is the mastermind of the group. The second – played by Aram Sabbagh, in civilian life Palestine’s first skateboarder – is a substance user, and follows his cousin without always avoiding the risk of a fiasco for the family businesses. The idea, desperately fixed, would be to head to Berlin, to open a café there, and to be able to bring relatives, starting with Nabila, Chatila’s fiancée, an outstanding cook.

Petty theft

The film is, so to speak, the story of the successive plans developed by Shatila to achieve this. The first option consists of using the sum carefully set aside, through petty theft or passes in the public garden in the case of Reda, to pay for false passports to the local virtuoso, Marwan. Alas, Reda got his hands on it and squandered it, with the active help of Abou Love, the squat’s hash supplier. The untimely meeting of a teenager from Gaza, who wants to join an aunt who lives in Italy, gives Chatila another idea to achieve this, especially since he has just met Tatiana, a girl who is not indifferent to its charms.

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It would therefore be a question of getting in touch with the little one’s aunt and suggesting that Tatiana, who would pose as a relative, deliver her nephew to her in Italy. All for a sum that would allow Chatila and Reda to finally set sail for Berlin.

But then, Tatiana, a smart flyer, got paid for this service, took the teenager under her arm and disappeared to Italy. As for the aunt, she no longer responds. No matter, even when knocked out by bad luck, Chatila is never short of ideas.

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