As Europe deliberates whether to outlaw mosque minarets and women’s burqas, filmmakers are rushing in for a slice of the immigration tension. Enter Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki with Le Havre, a comic and tragic tale of a Normandy town and African refugees. Though only diehard film buffs will recognize Kaurismäki and his critically acclaimed films The Man Without a Past and Lights and the Dusk, he recently made headlines for refusing Oscar nominations as a protest to George W. Bush’s poorly executed War on Terror.
With Le Havre, Kaurismäki strikes his familiar comic-humanist stance with the story of a shoe shiner in a world where very few shoes need shining anymore. Marcel buffs footwear in a train station, where he comes across Issabris, a young African refugee who sneaked into France via a cramped shipping container. Not only does Marcel decide to take the frightened boy into his care, but also he puts himself in danger by trying to smuggle Issabris into England, where the rest of his family has landed. Marcel’s humanitarian heroism contrasts with our local immigration dramas — just think back to the photo of a federal agent shoving a machine gun in the face of a crying Elián.
Fri., Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m., 2011