When you see Haydar struggle up a frozen Alpine pass wit his son dead in his arms, you realize that movies do not have to be the computerized, garbage-filled trivia we see at the mall cineplexes every weekend.
"Journey of Hope," which will be shown tonight through Sunday and again next weekend at the Baltimore Museum of Art, is the Swiss-made film that won the 1991 Academy Award for best foreign language film. The movie, which is acted by a mostly Turkish cast, is a simple, moving tale based on an actual story.
Like millions of other parents Haydar wants a better life for his family and he believes he can find it in Switzerland. Against the advice of his father, Haydar takes his wife and one of their seven children on an illegal odyssey from Turkey across the Mediterranean, up through Italy and into the Alps, where the movie has its stunning and thrilling climax.
"See this grass -- even it comes out with its roots," Haydar's father tells him. "If you leave your roots, you'll be less than the grass -- you'll be nothing!"
The power of writer-director Xavier Kollar's work (and that of his cast) is that we see the father's prophecy (almost) come true. In the mountain fastness of his home in Turkish Kurdistan, surrounded by his goats and sheep, Haydar is a powerful, even heroic, figure. But as his journey takes him through developed countries in which he has no rights and in which he cannot understand the languages, he becomes smaller and weaker. Preyed upon by the thieves who market in human contraband, he, his family and other Turks making the same journey to what they think will be Paradise, lose everything except each other.
In one scene, a group of Turkish women, dying from exposure in the mountains, stumble on to the grounds of a luxury hotel. On the other side of a plate window, they see a fat man -- looking like a creature from another world -- cavorting alone in a heated pool. When their desperate pounding makes it impossible for him to continue to ignore them, he paddles over to the window with his goggles on. "The pool is closed," he uncomprehendingly tells them. "You can't just show up and expect to be let in."
There are some wonderful performances here: Necmettin Cobanoglu as the haplessly hope-filled Haydar; Emin Sivas as the enchanting son; and Nur Surer as Haydar's wife, who has one of those beautiful faces that seems to stare straight into the heart of sorrow.
'Journey of Hope'
Starring Necmettin Cobanoglu, Nur Surer, Emin Sivas. Directed by Xavier Koller.
Released by Miramax Films.