(director/writer: Roland Vranik; screenwriter: Iván Szabó; cinematographer: Imre Juhasz; editor: Lili Makk; music: Csaba Kalotás; cast:  Máté Haumann (Károly-Mari’s son), Tünde Szalontay (Éva -Mari’s sister), Tibor Gáspár (Doctor), Cake-Baly Marcelo (Wilson), Agnes Mahr (Mari), Peter Barbinek (Árpád-Mari’s husband), Arghavan Shekari (Shirin); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Károly Fehér ; ArtMattan Films; 2016-Hungary/USA-in Hungarian with English subtitles)

“Examines immigration from a humanistic point of view.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Roland Vranik (“Transmission”/”Black Brush”) is the Hungarian filmmaker of this topical drama, whose film examines immigration from a humanistic point of view. The co-writer is Ivan Szabo. The drama depicts the tough journey of a black African refugee legally trying to become a Hungarian citizen. The actors are mostly non-professionals.

The middle-aged Wilson (Cake-Baly Marcelo, newcomer and actual refugee) is a political refugee from Guinea-Bissau living in Budapest and working as a security guard, who has failed to pass the citizenship test several times. During the internal strife in his country he lost his wife and daughters. To help him pass, his female boss, Eva (Tunde Szalontay), gets her sister Mari (Agnes Mahr), a history teacher, to tutor him.

While guiding Wilson around the city and on tours of cultural sites like museums, the lonely immigrant and the unhappily married teacher become romantically attached to each other. As a result Mari leaves her husband and moves in with Wilson at the apartment he illicitly shares with Shirin (Arghavan Shekari). She’s an undocumented Iranian woman he took in after she showed up pregnant at his door, looking for his former roommate and begging for protection. When Shirin gave birth to a baby, Wilson helped deliver it.

Things seemingly go well for him, as Wilson passes the test for citizenship and wins the supermarket’s “Employee of the Year” award. But Mari’s racist sister (Tünde Szalontay) disapproves and asks her: “Doesn’t he smell different?”. Mari’s husband (Peter Barbinek) and grown son (Máté Haumann) physically attack Wilson at his workplace. And Mari is  uncomfortable living with both Wilson and Shirin and almost flips out when he suggests marrying Shirin now that he’s a citizen so that she can remain in the country legally.

It results in a police raid of the apartment, as they take Shirin and her baby away.

At its best, it reminds one of Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Yet the timely and evenly messaged immigration drama becomes too melodramatic and contrived at times.

Frank Rizzo and Cake-Baly Marcelo in Az állampolgár (2016)

REVIEWED ON 10/27/2018       GRADE: B