THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE (Toivon tuolla puolen)

MASTER’S PROGRAM TIFF 2017 Winner Silver Bear for Best Director, Berlin Film Festival 2017

Familiar to TIFF audiences for his signature droll humour and empathetic characters The Other Side of Hope is master Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki’s follow-up to his 2011 film Le Havre.  In both films, Kaurismäki illuminates the plight of refugees, chance encounters, the kindness of strangers and the possibility of a brighter future.

The Other Side of Hope tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Khaled (Sherwan Hajl), a Syrian asylum seeker from Aleppo who’s lost his entire family and Wikstrom (Sakari Kuosmanen) a fifty-something traveling salesman  who’s left his alcoholic wife and purchased a restaurant in the back streets of Helsinki with his meager winnings from poker.

When the authorities decide to return Khaled to the ruins of Aleppo he opts to stay illegally in the country and disappears into the streets of Helsinki where he meets racism, as well as pure kindness.   Wikström finds Khaled sleeping in the inner yard of his restaurant and seeing something of himself in the battered man, hires him as a cleaner and a dishwasher.

Together, they help each other through challenges they face in their unfamiliar and often baffling new worlds. With hilarious sight gags, poker-faced one liners and a toe-tapping rockabilly soundtrack, The Other Side of Hope weaves Kaurismäki’s unparalleled wit with a stinging critique of an unforgiving bureaucracy that greets vulnerable asylum seekers in modern-day Europe. Humane and sincere, it's proof of cinema's power to tell stories that matter, with beauty and heart.

The Other Side of Hope opens in New York and LA on Friday, December 1, 2017 and in Canada on Friday, December 8, 2017.   The film is distributed in Canada by Films We Like and in the U.S. by Janus Films.


Press & Industry - 11am - Thursday, September 7 - Scotiabank 13

Public 1 - 6:45pm - Friday, September 8 - TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Public 2 - 9:30am - Sunday, September 10 - TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

AKI KAURISMÄKI, Writer, Director, Editor, Producer

Aki Kaurismäki, born in 1957, grew up in “the age terrorized by television,” and has tried and managed to stick to the inseparable realities of the real world and the "deep screen" that only 35 mm film light against electronic machinations, the beauty of artisanal tradition against technological overkill - makes possible. He has never used any other material, least of all video, and is very proud for having continued the tradition of “real cinema.”

His minimalist style is all his own (and that of the great cinematographer of all his films, Timo Salminen); he never entered the Finnish Film School (as he was suspected to be "too cynical"). At the same time, his films are full of allusions, but always invisible ones, parts of a constant dialogue wherein particles of film culture reveal realities of human environment, society and psyche: as it is now, and as it was during the tender years of Aki's childhood.


Sakari Kuosmanen (born 1956), is one of Kaurismäki’s favourite actors. With a long career both as an actor and a musician, Kuosmanen is perhaps best remembered from his lead role in Kaurismäki’s film Juha, as the gruff harbour guard in The Man Without a Past, and of his role as a doorman in Drifting Clouds. Kuosmanen has also appeared in the following films directed by Aki Kaurismäki: Calamari Union, Shadows In Paradise, Leningrad Cowboys Go America and Total Balalaika Show.


Sherwan Haji (born 1985) plays the role of Khaled, a Syrian refugee. Haji, who came to Finland from Syria in 2010, graduated from Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus in 2008. Haji acted in several TV series in Syria and continued his studies in Cambridge School of Art – Anglia Ruskin University in 2015, graduating last year with a Master of Arts degree. Since 2012 Haji has, in addition to acting, also written and directed several short films and video installations for Lion’s Line, his production company. This is Haji’s first main role in a feature film. The film’s soundtrack also includes music performed by Haji on saz, a traditional stringed instrument.

Founded by award-winning documentary filmmaker Ron Mann (Grass, Comic Book Confidential, Altman) Films We Like is a boutique distributor of documentary, independent and international films in Canada.  Upcoming releases for Fall 2017 include LUCKY, BOMBSHELL:  THE HEDY LAMARR STORY and THE DIVINE ORDER.

Since 1956, Janus Films has been dedicated to bringing international art-house films to U.S. audiences. Its library of over 800 films include classics by Akerman, Antonioni, Bergman, Fellini, Kurosawa,  Truffaut, Ozu, Tarkovksy and Varda and major works by contemporary masters, Jim Jarmusch, Joel and Ethan Coen and John Waters.  Janus Films also releases carefully selected first-run titles, including Kirsten Johnson's critically acclaimed CAMERAPERSON, Agnieszka Smoczynska's hit THE LURE and Paolo Sorrentino's THE GREAT BEAUTY which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Running time:  98 minutes
Finnish, Arabic and English with English subtitles
Shot in 35mm

Download press kit and high rez images

Press and Media Contact:
Virginia Kelly: V Kelly & Associates