Dir/scr: Anja Salomonowitz. Austria. 2013. 80mins

The 727 Days Without Karamo

Anja Salomonowitz’s artistically constructed documentary The 727 Days Without Karamo (Die 727 Tage Ohne Karamo) tackles a difficult and at times moving issue – the tough immigration laws in Austria – with compassion and an engagingly quirky edge. Likely too niche to receive formal distribution it is an easy fit into human rights festivals or documentary strands.

Artistically framed and gently emotional, with Salomonowitz making especially good use of Bernhard Fleischman’s impressive score.

The core of the film is that a series of people are interviewed in Austria to give an insight on the complications that ruining their lives. One partner of each couple is not originally from Europe and their lovers (or, as is often the case, husbands or wives) find themselves caught up in the hell that is Austrian immigration law and its emotional, financial and physical impact.

Though each couple’s story is similar each is also drastically different, with Salomonowitz constructing a series of engaging, illuminating and often moving snapshots of the lives involved. She also rather playfully uses the colour yellow – often with regards clothes, but also vehicles, paper, walls and other objects – as a link between the stories. This bold linking mechanism (which does feel a little overplayed at times) means that the static interviews blend nicely together, with the colour yellow also indicating a hope (a sense of summer warmth) for the future.

The stories are varied. Austrian woman Suzanne has been forced to live alone with her children ever since her husband Karamo was deported to Africa; a man in a tiny apartment tries to instil hope in his Chinese wife that she will soon be allowed to return to Vienna; a Latin American would-be fashion designer can’t leave the country to work because his residency permit has not come through, and others talk of the long frustrations with forms and offices; of having to attend German courses, and domestic spot checks by the police which infer that their marriage is a sham.

The 727 Days Without Karamo is elegantly shot. Artistically framed and gently emotional, with Salomonowitz making especially good use of Bernhard Fleischman’s impressive score and playfully layering in some clever sound design quirks that help make what could have been an unrelentingly dry subject all the more human and insightful.

Karamo of the title is never actually seen. His wife Susanne Ceesay describes sadly describes how he was wrenched away from her while sitting – ironically -  with their young daughter doing maths homework. As she plaintively says: “Today is 23rd November 2011. The last time I saw my husband was on the 26h of November 2009. That’s two times 365… 600… 720. 730 minus 3, equals 727. I haven’t seen my husband for 727 days.”

Production company/contact: Amour Fou Vienna, wwwamourfoufilm.com

Producers: Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu, Bady Minck

Cinematography: Martin Putz

Editor: Petra Zopnek

Music: Bernhard Fleischmann

With: Zora Bachmann, Osas Imafidon, Evelyn Barota, Mutono Barota, Samuel Barota

Johanna Bauer, Daniel Inyinbor, Emmanuel Osaiwe Inyinbor, David Akowe Inyinbor, Zou Joeying Brichta, Adolf Brichta, Susanna Buchacher, Susanne Ceesay