The filmmaker Josef Fares (known for his comedies Jalla! Jalla! and Kopps) left Beirut, Lebanon, during the civil war for Sweden aged ten in 1987.
Just like his young protagonist Zozo (Imad Creidi), the film is a fictionalized account of Fares’ journey to Sweden. Creidi gives a touching performance as a boy with an imagination and a determination to keep going on with his life.
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Filmmaker Josef Fares. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
The realistic war scenes are counterbalanced by Zozo’s fantasies of a simpler world. Zozo meets a young girl his age who brings him to the border so that they can escape to Sweden together to live with Zozo’s grandparents. The natural light of the daytime exteriors in this film contrast a world of hope with a dark world of carnage displayed in the Beirut night scenes.
Fares and his sound designer Evelyn Ficarra have created a soundscape build on sounds of war representing Zozo’s built-up rage at his class and bullies in Sweden. His moments of happiness with the young girl and his new school friend build his confidence after the hardships of Beirut. He is a boy with a bright future in Sweden.
I study at SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) so to hear Arabic and Swedish in this film was very familiar to me. I screened this film in Studiefrämjandet in Lidköping to a small group of people; our post-discussion was about the hardships of war and of integrating into Swedish society.
Fares’ journey to Lebanon for filming was his first visit in over 25 years; he has made a powerful film filled with memories, hardships, friendships and a determination to carry on with one’s life.
Peter Larkin is an Irish film writer currently based in Sweden. Read his blog here.