Film Reviews

Review: ‘69 Minutes of 86 Days’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs

69 Minutes of 86 Days
(Norway, 71 minutes)
Dir: Egil Håskjold Larsen
Programme: International Spectrum. (North American Premiere)

The most emblematic photograph of the Syrian war to date was that of the corpse of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, drowned on the Mediterranean beach in September 2015, after his refugee family’s third attempt to reach the Greek island of Kos.

Norwegian director Egil Haskjold Larsen’s 69 Minutes of 86 Days begins on the Greek shoreline in what feels like an alternative history. It’s the story of another three-year-old refugee, this time a girl named Lean, who sets out with her parents and uncles on a three-month journey through Europe, to live with relatives in Uppsala, Sweden. As a conceptual exercise aimed at tugging the heartstrings, 69 Minutes is a modest success, though more for its integrity than insight or revelations.

Beginning on a Greek shore, strewn with lifejackets and detritus, the film’s point-of-view is most often that of a three-year-old’s height, looking through forests of adult legs. Our protagonist, Lean, is an endearing toddler in a topknot, with a plaid coat and Frozen knapsack. She chants songs and picks up pebbles and tells jumbled stories and is indifferent to the camera’s presence.

With Larsen’s camera constantly panning and tracking among the tent villages, the border checks, the anxious waits for trains and van rides, we are provided with no voice-over, interviews, or on-screen text to orient us. This conveys not only the refugees’ disorientation but the repetitious tedium of their journey, though, as the title, 69 Minutes of 86 Days, reminds us, we only have the barest idea.

69 Minutes in 86 Days screens:
-Saturday, April 29 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7 p.m.
-Sunday, April 30 at Scotiabank Theatre at 12:30 p.m.
-Sunday, May 7 at Aga Khan Museum at 7:30 p.m.

Visit the POV Hot Docs Hub for more coverage from this year’s festival!