The cinematic output of Cyprus may rank among the lesser known of international efforts, however the nation boasts a commitment to the medium nonetheless. From providing a location for foreign productions (Otto Preminger’s Exodus, Normandy drama The Longest Day) to promoting the output of lauded Cypriot filmmaker Mihalis Kakogiannis (The Wastrel, Zorba The Greek), the cinema of Cyprus has earned its place on the map. In recent years, the annual Cyprus International Film Festival has helped boost the profile of the island country, as have features Under The Stars and Akamas. Kalabushis another that has focused the spotlight on the film efforts of the small nation, regaling audiences since its release in 2002.
Following in the well-worn footsteps of many a man in search of a better life, Mustafa (Marios Ioannou, Last Minute) – or Roberto, as he also calls himself – takes his chances as an illegal immigrant on the way to Italy. Arriving at his destination, he is shocked to discover that his journey has brought him to Cyprus, yet determines to make the best of the situation. Living in the margins of society, he survives on the kindness of strangers, meeting fellow travellers from all walks of life. As he crosses paths with musicians, politicians, cooks and crooks whilst attempting to elude the law, his tale encompasses a lost ostrich and an escaped baboon, a misplaced lotto ticket and a mysterious man, as well as the contradictions of his host nation.
A cult classic in its homeland, Kalabush is a comedy caper with both dramatic and farcical leanings. As Mustafa ambles about his adopted hometown, he encounters the best – and the worst – of human nature, with both impacting upon the genesis of his unlikely and unique, amusing and intriguing story. For every fortunate occurrence he happens upon, there is a matching setback, with hypocrisy and ignorance, prejudice and tradition often getting in the way of his attempts to survive and assimilate. These themes are mirrored in the intertwined subplots of life and death proportions, as well as in the protagonist’s romantic interlude, animal experience, paranoid escapade, and altercation with the whims and ways of luck.
Similar to Costa-Gavra’s lyrical odyssey Eden Is West, and even bearing a passing resemblance to Michael Winterbottom’s harrowing emigration tale In This World, Kalabush is as much about the voyage as it is about the events along the way. Filmmakers Adoni Floridis and Theodoros Nikolaidis (in their first feature after collaborating on the short Espresso) take care to emphasize the cultural specificity in their adaptation of Floridis’ script, whilst augmenting the locales in their directorial approach. With spirited performances from the vast cast, an energy of chaos and humour, as well as insight and pathos, is aptly cultivated. An engaging – albeit uneven – film about finding one’s place in the world whilst remaining open to new experiences, Kalabush presents a pleasing balance of the pertinent and the preposterous.
Kalabush is screening as part of the Windows On Europe film festival, currently screening in Canberra before touring Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne until April 2011. The Brisbane season runs from February 19 – 25 at Dendy Portside Cinemas.