Movie Article

Pilgrim's Progress

''Journey of Hope'' -- Xavier Koller tells us about writing this year's Best Foreign Film Oscar inner

It seems appropriate that Journey of Hope, this year's winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is making headlines. The $2.3 million Swiss film was inspired by a headline — specifically, a newspaper item about a Kurdish family in Eastern Anatolia who sold their land and sheep to emigrate, illegally, from Turkey to a better life in Switzerland. ''I was writing a different script, says Xavier Koller, the film's 46-year-old director-screenwriter, ''but the family kept getting stuck in my head and in my heart. I couldn't concentrate. I was caught emotionally by this incredible true story and it bothered me until I wrote it down.'' Four days later, while on his way to Paris to work on Eclipse of the Moon, a biopic about writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Koller wrote his Journey of Hope story. Three weeks later, when he compared what he had written with the newspaper journalist's research of the actual event, Koller discovered that they were much the same. ''That was the kick for me to go further and make the production,'' he says. The director's next stop was the small mountain village near Maras in southeast Turkey and the home of the family whose story so inspired him. Koller found them to be cooperative: The film was shot in their house and their two sons appeared in the film. While Journey of Hope is a chronicle of heartbreaking loss, Koller hopes its realism will bring about a change in people's attitude toward refugees. ''You, or me, or the audience, we think, 'What's my position? How do I relate to it? Do I have to change my attitude? Am I close to those people?''' says Koller. ''For me, the hope is that this would change. It's not enough to open your purse and pay guilt off with money, you have to open your heart.''

Originally posted May 17, 1991 Published in issue #66 May 17, 1991 Order article reprints