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Watch – The Hollywood Reporter


A trio of teenage refugees try to escape from a detention center located in an absurdly remote area of northern Norway in the first trailer for A Happy Day, the new film from Letter to the King director Hisham Zaman.

The Hollywood Reporter received the exclusive first-look trailer for the dark comedy, which will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, Sept. 11 in TIFF’s Centerpiece section.

Right away it’s clear this is not going to be a typical refugee tale. The first time we see the three teenage protagonists: Hamid (Salah Qadi), Aras (Ravand Ali Taha), and Ismail (Mohamed Salah), who live together at a refugee center for unaccompanied minors, they are talking about a dream one of them had of escape.

“The police were chasing me through the snow,” one recounts, “I saw a donkey. Suddenly my head popped out of the donkey’s butt and yelled: ‘Here I am, come and get me!’ It must be a sign.”

Yes, agrees his friend, it’s a sign “that we’re stuck in a sh**hole and we’ll never get out.”

The trio wants to escape the center before they turn 18, when, as adults, they will be deported. But so far their attempts have been futile. They don’t get very far across the snow and ice before they’re picked up by the local police and brought back to the center. Things get more complicated when newcomer Aida (Sarah Aman Mentzoni) arrives, and their plan begins to unravel.

Zaman’s mix of the tragic and the comically absurd brings to mind the work of Nordic director Aki Kaurismäki but the film draws on his direct experience as a refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan to find a fresh and unconventional way of portraying the lives and hopes of young asylum seekers.

REinvent International Sales is handling worldwide sales for the film.

Check out the A Happy Day trailer, below.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.