Dir: Ella Lemhagen. Sweden. 1999. 91 mins.
Prod Co: Felicia Film with Film I Vast, Norsk Film AS. Int'l Sales: Nordisk Film. Prod: Anne Ingvar. Scr: Ulf Stark. DoP: Anders Bohman. Ed: Bernhard Winkler. Music: Popsicle. Main cast: Samuel Haus, Alexandra Rapaport, Jacob Ericksson, George Nakas.
Already creating substantial buzz in Berlin, Tsatsiki, Mum And The Policeman proved a fine choice to open Berlin's children's film section, Kinderfilmfest, at the Zoo-Palast cinema. The family film is a delightful, gentle comedy that is both well scripted and smartly directed. After over four months on release at the Swedish box office, Tsatsiki has attracted $3m making it one of the most popular home-grown films of last year. It could well play outside the confines of children's cinema overseas.
Based on two popular children's books, the titular hero is an eight-year old boy, played by Samuel Haus, who manages to be both charming and completely free of sentimentality. Tsatsiki's single mother Tina (Alexandra Rapaport, one of the 'Shooting Stars' at Berlin this year) is a guitarist who dreams of becoming a rock star. Apparently the lad's father is a Greek fisherman that Tina had met on holiday. She explains this is why the boy was given his Greek name (nicely tolerated by his school teachers) and spends all his free time training to be a diver.
The film opens with Tsatsiki sneaking into a swimming pool where an off-duty motorcycle policeman subsequently 'rescues' him when he sees the boy in trouble in the deep end. Tsatsiki is only practising holding his breath but it gives the officer a reason for taking him back home, meeting Tina and eventually renting her spare room. An off-on romance ensues between the policeman and the scatty but independent-minded mother, while her son furthers his own dreams of getting to meet his father.
The film is full of original incidents and genuine humour and the playing of the lead actors is utterly credible. Woven into the story, without a hint of archness or social pleading, are a host of contemporary issues that lift the film several notches above what is usually offered as 'children's entertainment'.