Between Two Fires

The Polish-Swedish co-production Between Two Fires is about asylum seekers. Marta is a single mother in Belarus and lives with an older man, letting him use her, in order to have food for her girl. She works as a cleaner at the train station. One day Jurii comes by and sees her daughter, and when she comes home a few days later she finds her daughter raped by and sold to Jurii. He takes young girls to Minsk as prostitutes.

Marta quickly organizes a way to get to Sweden, where a friend of hers lives. According to the mother of the friend, she is now rich there, living in a nice house with nice clothes and a big car. 10 days later they are in Kiruna, in a home for asylum seekers. At first, Marta thinks she is safe, but she quickly learns that danger is everywhere for both her and her daughter. Her roommate scares her, because she has a knife in her bed. Marta applies for a different room, but this is not possible.

She applies for asylum, and waits. During the wait she meets Ali, from Algeria. She is afraid of him at first, but soon falls in love with him - rather corny, filled with shower-wet scenes. A bit less sex would not have detracted from the story proper.

Marta finally finds her friend, but she has married a Swede in order to get a residence permit. She lives in a little flat, and the beautiful house she was photographed in front of is one of the houses she cleans. Her friend, Gosci, offers to have her marry another older Swedish man so that she, too, can get a residence permit.

Marta gets her own flat, and believes that she will now stay, but there is no happy end. I don't want to reveal the exact details here, as the film has not been screened except for film festivals.

The film does an excellent job of showing that asylum seekers are not just leeches here to prey on a rich society. They are all traumatized, all in a different way, and putting them all in a home together is not exactly a good idea. We tend to ignore them, hope that they go away, back "home" - a home that may prove fatal to most of them. But they are human beings, they want to live, love, work, and pray, just like we do. They may not be like us, they have different values, but they are human none the less.

The producer and the first assistant director were there after the film. The extras in the film are real asylum seekers from the area around Kiruna. One person asked what the authorities said that they were taking part in such a move. They smiled slyly and noted that they didn't ask the authorities for permission - the asylum seekers are free to spend their days as they please. They did not use a real asylum center, but a camp site far outside of Kiruna as the film location.  

They are planning their next screenings in the south of Sweden - the part of Sweden in which the anti-foreigner Swedish Nationalist Party received 10% of the vote in the recent election. I look forward to hearing about the reception of Between Two Fires - the story of a mother between a rock and a hard place. 

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