In 90s, pre-war Kosovo ten-year-old Nori and his father Gesim sell cigarettes on the street. They sleep on a single mattress on the floor in a house that doesn’t belong to them. Gesim has tried again and again to smuggle himself across the border into Montenegro, in the hopes of making it to Germany for a better life. His mother having left before the events of the film, Nori is determined not to let his father abandon him too. When Gesim finally succeeds in getting across the border, Nori follows his journey to find the father who deserted him, and learns the hard way that when the prize of the West is at stake, he can trust no one.
Everything on screen seems to be covered in dirt. Provincial Kosovo is depicted as a messy, impoverished dump, where stray dogs are abused and ten people sleep in one room. The people look pallid, as if poisoned by their surroundings. Even the alleged family bonds have been broken: Gesim does everything he can to avoid taking his son with him to Germany, and leaves when Nori is in hospital and thus unable to thwart his attempts. Even Nori, in his desperation to follow his father, steals the very last of his uncle’s money that was to be used for a wedding. He shows no guilt in this act, as his surroundings have taught him that in hard times the end justifies the means.
Kosovo-born directer Visar Morina has brought a new perspective to a situation with which Western Europe is currently all too familiar. From a child’s eyes we see the injustices levelled at immigrants desperate enough to brave the dangerous journey to greener pastures. Nori sees everything but reacts to very little. His face remains impassive as he watches and experiences the worst aspects of humanity, and expresses himself like an animal – with actions and noises instead of words. It is hard to know what he’s thinking, which is one of the flaws of the film. This boy is the audience’s window into the world, but he reacts so infrequently that the story becomes hard to follow and it is unclear what anyone’s motivations are.
An unsentimental telling of a routine story, Babai is a satisfactory film but is certainly not one pleasant to watch.
Babai (Father) does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Babai (Father) here: