Reise der Hoffnung [1990]

Xavier Koller's 1990 drama concerns a Turkish family optimistically leaving a threadbare existence in its native country and setting off on a harrowing journey for better luck in Switzerland. The film is relentless in every sense, in its blow-by-blow portrayal of the characters selling their possessions, traveling an illegal route used by other emigrants, falling in with a cluster of smugglers who do not have their best interests at heart, crossing the Alps on foot (an extended sequence that quickly earned the film its must-see reputation). After all that, they still have to confront Swiss authorities. Brutal and tough going, the heart of the film is not so much the accumulating despair and misery but the strengthening relationships of the central characters. Koller's film, based on a true story, becomes more than the sum of its episodic nightmares. In an unexpected way, it becomes a beacon of true hope and humanity. --Tom Keogh

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