Toronto Hot Docs: “Easy Lessons”
There are no Easy Lessons in this documentary.
On the face of it this can perceived as an inspiring story of Kafiya Mahdi Said who was trafficked out of Somali to Budapest as a “refugee”. Without her family she braves a New World on her own. Learns a new language. Passes high school with commendations and converts to Christianity which is a death sentence in Somalia. I mean it’s a fairy tale story.
You may ask why is “refugee” in brackets? Well the swell of people into Europe (and into Canada) may be based more on economic self-advancement than political prosecution. Kafiya seems far removed from a political refugee from what I hear her say in the film!
One reason of this fairy tale element is that Hungary does not treat Muslim refugees well at all. There is not a hint of that in this film. It’s like this is some propaganda film from Hungary’s old Iron Curtain days. On that basis alone it rather dents this as a credible documentary.
There are also some barbs at Islamic Somalia and Islamic society in general thrown out. These barbs are subtle and are very likely true but upon her conversion to Christianity she claims it was the way to find “the right path” and prays that her mother will find “the right path”. Kind of has that propaganda smell.
The lesson becomes very hard in the last minute of the film. Why did she do that? Is she a weak coward or is she trying to protect her family from Somali reprisals? Knowing that she was making this film it would only be a matter of time before Somalians found out about it so the protection angle doesn’t work for me. This is a story of a woman who pretends to be strong and confident but is very confused and morally dishonest. I am sorry if you do not like what you have read but I am entitled to my interpretation as you are yours.
This 78-minute Hungarian film is directed by Dorottyo Zurkó and shows on April 29 at 5:30 at Innis and on May 1 at Tiff Bell Lightbox.