Wake up on Mars

FESTIVAL

* Tribeca 2020


Wake up on Mars

Category |Human Interest, Human Rights, Justice, Migration, Social Issues, Youth
Year | 2020
Country | France, Switzerland
Running time | 74’
Format | 4K
Production | Mélisande Films , Alva Film, Amok Films
Director | Dea Gjinovci


In the small town of Horndal, central Sweden, Furkan, an 11-year-old boy who arrived from Kosovo with his family 4 years ago, is faced with a medical mystery that has changed the life of his family. His two sisters, Ibadeta (17) and Djeneta (15), have fallen into a coma for three years and nearly four years respectively. They are not the only ones in Sweden who are victims of the «resignation syndrome» that affects asylum-seeking children, often following a threat of deportation. Djeneta is the first to fall into this state.

Swedish doctors treat many several hundred refugee children affected by this «syndrome of resignation», a phenomenon diagnosed since 2007 in this country. In April 2018, the Demiri family finally received temporary residency in Sweden for 13 months. It gave the family some hope that their girls might feel safe enough to wake up. Indeed, coming out of this syndrome-induced coma is dependent on the restoration of hope within the family. Each of them needs to feel safe and hopeful in order for the girls to wake up.

Furkan, having experienced a trauma witnessed by one of his sisters just before her illness, feels responsible and helpless when confronted by their condition. His imagination becomes his way to escape; in his mind, he is an astronaut who will go live on Mars. It’s this dichotomy between Furkhan’s fantastical ambition to flee to space, and his parents’ much more grounded desire to see their daughters awake from the coma, that some may find disorienting. Arguably, the film’s central subjects – the “resignation syndrome”, and beyond that, its causes, the extremes people are driven to, the kindness that bonds them – would be more than enough to anchor a powerful narrative. Gjinovci digs deeper. Through Fukhan’s prepubescent eyes, she manifests every refugee’s desire for the nightmare to be over, for peace and tranquility (in this case, the vacuum of cosmos), for some semblance of stability. A childhood may be corrupted, but a naivety, a hope prevails. The Demeri family perseveres against all the odds, applying for asylum, visas, and residence permits, taking the comatose girls outside to be surrounded by nature, visiting hospitals, and expressing understandable concerns about the sensitive Fukhan. If the “resignation syndrome” happened to the girls, who’s to say they won’t wake up one day to find Fukhan in the same condition? The doctors aren’t denying the possibility.

Reviews:
“This approach… shouldn’t work, but it does, largely thanks to the clarity and grace of Gjinovci’s vision, and her wonderful protagonists.”
  by Alex Saveliev - Film Treat

...a moving and inspiring story of hope - something we need more of right now."
  by Alex Billington - FIRSTSHOWING.NET

"...a vivid, compassionate depiction of perseverance in unimaginable circumstances."
  by Sheri Linden - Hollywood Reporter

"The ground continues to shift beneath a family's feet after moving from war-torn Kosovo to Sweden in this inventive look at the refugee experience.
  by Stephen Saito - Tribeca Review - The Moveable Fest

Interview with Swiss-Albanian documentary-maker Dea Gjinovci
  by Fabien Lemercier - Cineuropa

"...capturing both a heartbreaking portrait of family and one child’s bold dreams of visiting another world to escape the suffering around him.
  by Jordan Raup - The Film Stage

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