69 Minutes of 86 Days
(Norway, 71 minutes)
Dir: Egil Håskjold Larsen
Programme: International Spectrum. (North American Premiere)
The banal, descriptive title is the key to 69 Minutes of 86 Days. Proceeding for the most part in a series of steadycam long takes reminiscent of the films of Gus Van Sant or Bela Tarr, it’s a documentary about the refugee experience that attunes itself not to politics or even, in any particularly deep sense, character, but time.
The film does attach to a central figure, a very affectionate little girl, and her family, particularly her father, who are travelling to Sweden to reunite with their extended kinsfolk. But she is not so much the object of study as the subjective presence through which the events of the film are witnessed. This innocent perspective, and the oddly bland soundtrack, make the film somewhat lighter than most other films on the Syrian refugee crisis. Still, to have such an intimate encounter with migrants who are not landed refugees is rare, and valuable.
It’s easy to detect an implicit polemic in a lot of Syria-centric documentaries; to wit, a response to far-right xenophobia that focuses on sentiment and universal human virtues and experiences. In that sense, you could say that this film does for the Syrian refugee crisis what Life is Beautiful did for the Holocaust, which, to my mind, is not a whole lot. But if analysis is less important to you than sentiment, 69 Minutes of 86 Days is worth a look.
69 Minutes screens:
-Sunday, May 7 at Aga Khan Museum at 7:30 p.m.
Read Liam Lacey’s review of 69 Minutes of 86 Days for a second take.