This Friday, critic Girish Shambu will present Aki Kaurismäki’s warmhearted fable Le Havre (2011) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. The first entry in an ongoing trilogy about the plight of refugees in twenty-first-century Europe, the film is set in the titular French port, where it sketches a gently comic group portrait of a community of outsiders who band together to protect a young African boy from the immigration authorities. Kaurismäki infuses this scenario with a touching humanism that recalls some of French cinema’s most poetic works.
According to Shambu, Le Havre marks a shift in Kaurismäki’s approach, away from inward-looking portraits of melancholy misfits and out toward the desperation of non-Europeans fleeing war and poverty en masse. In his liner-note essay for our release of Kaurismäki’s follow-up film, The Other Side of Hope, Shambu praises the Finnish director’s “ongoing commitment to figures of otherness—introverted loners, nonconformist bohemians, the unemployed,” and marvels at the ways in which he has expanded his cinematic universe to take in “the abject dehumanization of displaced people today” without diluting his wry comedic touch.