The Kanjo family has fled Syria and hopes to meet up with family in Sweden. But, trapped among packs of refugees and harsh authorities, the journey to a new home is full of unpredictable turns. Much of this travelling focuses on Lean, a young and cheerful girl who keeps the family’s spirits up during the arduous trip. As the Kanjos deal with setbacks, overcrowded trains, and a lack of food, Lean gets her first look at a changing continent and a new way of life.
The debut for Norway filmmaker Egil Håskjold Larsen is a striking look at one of this era’s largest humanitarian crises. To stand out from the pack of migrant-themed docs, he trains the camera on the bewildered faces of children. Also the film’s cinematographer, he shoots the action from a lower height, further capturing the experience from Lean’s view. It is also arresting how infrequently the young subjects notice Larsen’s camera. Nevertheless, the chaos and clutter of this trip through Europe’s borders absorbs these young refugees’ attention.
As an urgent document of the migrant crisis, 69 Minutes of 86 Days sometimes loses its punch due to an abundance of music. The content rarely needs emphasis, so whining guitars and tinny drumbeats interfere with our immersion into the migrants’ shoes. At some points, the music even blares over what people are saying. This lack of clarity sometimes reflects the isolation and confusion of the subjects; at other times, the music is annoying and superfluous. These style tics aside, Larsen’s brief but humane portrait of refugees is hard to shake.