The Other Side of Hope

The Other Side of Hope (Finnish: Toivon tuolla puolen) is a 2017 Finnish comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. The film was produced by Kaurismäki's Finnish company Sputnik. In December 2016, it was selected to play in competition at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival.[3] The story is about a Finnish businessman who meets a Syrian asylum-seeker looking for his missing sister. Kaurismäki has noted that this film will be his last as a director.[4]

The Other Side of Hope
Film poster
Directed byAki Kaurismäki
Produced byAki Kaurismäki
Written byAki Kaurismäki
CinematographyTimo Salminen
Edited bySamu Heikkilä
Distributed byB-Plan
Release date
  • 3 February 2017 (2017-02-03)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Finnish
  • English
  • Arabic
Box office$3,289,611[2]


In Helsinki, Waldemar a traveling shirt salesman quarrels with his wife and leaves her. He decides to exit his business and sells his remaining shirts. He gambles his newfound cash at a poker game and wins big. With his winnings he buys a restaurant. His three employees are initially skeptical of Waldemar's attempts to reinvigorate their restaurant.

At the same time, Khaled shows up in Helsinki illegally on a cargo ship. He turns himself in to the police and applies for asylum. At the refugee processing facility he's sent to, he befriends Mazdak, an Iraqi refugee. Khaled asks Mazdak to help him with his search for his sister, Miriam, who was lost during their journey through the Balkans for refuge from the Syrian Civil War. When the Finnish government denies Khaled's asylum application after an interview, Khaled escapes from the facility.

Waldemar finds Khaled hiding near his restaurant, gives him refuge, and hires him. Waldemar and his staff help Khaled get new papers. Mazdak eventually hears from Miriam. Waldemar and Khaled hire a trucker to smuggle her from Lithuania, where she was in a refugee facility. Khaled and Miriam reunite. It is hinted that the trucker raped Miriam during the journey, though her brother does not realize this, and that this may not have been her first experience of sexual violence during her migration. She is also upset at her brother for getting her smuggled out without her consent. Shortly thereafter, Khaled returns home back to Waldemar's apartment. On the way he is harassed by a racist thug who stabs him nearly to death. Waldemar sees pools of blood when he comes back to his place, and goes out to find Khaled. Khaled is sitting under a tree on the bank of a river, smiling as a small dog licks his face.



Aki Kaurismäki said he set out hoping to change perspectives on refugees in Finland.[5] Sherwan Haji won the part of Khaled after answering a casting call for a Middle Eastern actor, Syrian preferred.[6]

Haji commented he drew on his personal experiences to play the character, saying "It took me maybe 10 minutes to just close my eyes and think that I'm home, and then all of a sudden it rain bombs".[6] Kaurismäki asked Haji if he played an instrument, and upon finding he did, asked Haji to bring the instrument to the set, writing a scene to incorporate this.[6] After considering the working title The Refugee not poetic, Kaurismäki said he found his title The Other Side of Hope in an ancient Greek poem.[5]


In December 2016, it was announced The Other Side of Hope would play in competition at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. The film itself was given an early February release in Finland[7] and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired the British distribution rights, with plans to release the film in April 2017.[8] In March 2017, Janus Films acquired the rights to distribute the film in the United States, previously distributing Kaurismäki's preceding film from 2011, Le Havre, in the country as well.[9] The Other Side of Hope was released in the United States on 1 December 2017.[10]


The Other Side of Hope was highly acclaimed upon release. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 91% approval rating, based on 87 reviews, with an average score of 7.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Writer-director Aki Kaurismäki further sharpens his craft with The Other Side of Hope, offering a timely drama whose melancholy air is leavened by its empathy."[11] On Metacritic, it holds a score of 84 out of 100 based on 23 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[12]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times said the film was "humane and gravely funny" and "at once honest and artful, a touching and clearsighted declaration of faith in people and in movies."

Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times noted: "Full of brilliantly offhand gags and harrowing plot turns, this delightful comic fable expresses a belief in human decency, in the way things could be if only we all tried a little harder, that feels wise and hopeful rather than naive".[13]

The film was chosen as the best film of 2016–17 by FIPRESCI.[14]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Berlin International Film Festival 18 February 2017 Silver Bear for Best Director Aki Kaurismäki Won [15]
Dublin International Film Festival 26 February 2017 Best Actor Sherwan Haji Won [16]
European Film Awards 9 December 2017 Best Film Aki Kaurismäki Nominated [17]
Best Director Nominated
University Award Nominated [18]
Jerusalem Film Festival 2017 In the Spirit of Freedom Best Feature Film Won [19]
San Diego Film Critics Society 11 December 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [20]


  1. "The Other Side of Hope – Curzon Artificial Eye". Curzon Artificial Eye. Curzon Film World. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  2. "The Other Side of Hope". Box Office Mojo., Inc. 19 March 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  3. "Aki Kaurismäki, Oren Moverman, Agnieszka Holland, Andres Veiel, and Sally Potter – First Films for the Competition of the Berlinale 2017". Berlinale. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  4. "Berlin: Aki Kaurismaki Wins Best Director for 'The Other Side of Hope'". 18 February 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  5. Kaurismäki, Aki (2018). Aki Kaurismäki at the Berlin Film Festival. The Other Side of Hope (Blu-ray). The Criterion Collection.
  6. Haji, Sherwan (2018). Sherwan Haji. The Other Side of Hope (Blu-ray). The Criterion Collection.
  7. "First Look: Aki Kaurismaki's 'The Other Side Of Hope'". 8 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  8. "The Other Side of Hope – Curzon Artificial Eye". Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  9. Pham, Annika (20 March 2017). "Aki Kaurismäki's Hope spreads to the US". Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Modulo AS. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  10. Vestrheim, Emma (17 August 2017). "Aki Kaurismäki's THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE to screen at Toronto". Cinema Scandinavia. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  11. "The Other Side of Hope (Toivon tuolla puolen) (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  12. "The Other Side of Hope Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  13. Chang, Justin (18 September 2017). "At the Toronto International Film Festival, the director still reigns supreme". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  14. "FIPRESCI – Awards". FIPRESCI. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  15. "Prizes of the International Jury". Berlinale. 18 February 2017.
  16. Clarke, Donald (26 February 2016). "The DFCC Awards at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  17. Cabeza, Elisabet (4 November 2017). "'The Square' leads 2017 European Film Awards nominations". Screen Daily. Screen International. Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  18. "Five Films Nominated for EUFA 2017". European University Film Award. European Film Academy. Archived from the original on 3 December 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  19. "'Scaffolding', Hong Sang-soo triumph in Jerusalem". Screen Daily. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  20. "2017 San Diego Film Critics Society's Award Nominations". San Diego Film Critics Society. 9 December 2017. Archived from the original on 10 December 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
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