In an effort to escape their impoverished position in Turkey, a family makes a desperate bid - selling everything the y own - to start afresh in Switzerland, which they perceive to be a paradise.
Distribution being what it is here, nobody had heard of Journey Of Hope until it won the Best Foreign Film Oscar, a choice that caused bewilderment and left us wondering why the award didn't go to frontrunner Cyrano De Bergerac. In the event, Xavier Koller's film thoroughly deserves the honour.
The ironically hopeful journey of the title is undertaken by Haydar (Cobanoglu), his wife Meryem (Surer), and their seven-year-old son (Sivas), poor Turkish peasants from a small mountain village. All their worldly goods are sold to pay for papers and tickets to Switzerland, the "paradise" where they hope to make a new life for themselves and, eventually, the six children they leave behind. The trip grows increasingly arduous and dangerous as they progress via Istanbul to Naples where they are turned away at the border and must make their way to Milan. Finally, together with a band of other Turks, they enter the land of their dreams, only for hope to turn into despair and tragedy.
This salutary tale of human aspiration pitted against ruthless cruelty and greed (the smugglers of illegal immigrants) and obstinate bureaucracy (the Swiss officials), is, for all its terrible sadness, a thoroughly gripping film. Based on certain true events and shot (beautifully) entirely on location in Turkey, Italy and Switzerland, it's brilliantly cast, and directed with a dignified restraint that is exceptional, with Koller never dwelling on the obvious to milk a tear.
Touching, occasionally amusing and, like any good escape adventure - which, in form, it becomes - tense and exciting until tragedy strikes, Journey Of Hope is an absorbing and impressive piece of work.