Skip to Content
Wake Up On Mars cover image

Wake Up On Mars 2020

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by Sophie Faudel, Dea Gjinovci, Britta Rindelaub, Jasmin Basic, Heidi Fleisher, Kathryn Everett, Bryn Mosern, and Justin Lacob
Directed by Dea Gjinovci
Streaming, 74 mins

College - General Adult
Immigration; International Relations; Mental Health

Date Entered: 06/15/2022

Reviewed by Bryan J. Sajecki, University at Buffalo

Trauma is a sinister foe. It can lurk in the back of one’s head, waiting to creep out at the most unexpected moment. It can alter one’s perception of the world around them so strongly that nothing feels the same. There is no way to prepare for it and no magic pill to make everything normal again. Solace and safety become an illusion, and when a child suffers trauma, it can be debilitating.

Wake Up on Mars follows the lives of a Kosovar family of six living in Sweden, seeking refuge from the oppressions suffered in their home country. Unfortunately, trouble has followed them, as their permanent citizenship is always in question. Through the constant upheaval of deportations and fear for survival, both teenage daughters have fallen catatonic, suffering from a rare and confounding condition called Resignation Syndrome. As the parents are constantly working to keep their daughters alive, they live in fear that their two younger sons may too fall victim to the mysterious illness. However, their youngest son, Furkhan, has found a way to survive the struggles he has suffered in his young life; building a rocket ship so he can escape to that big red planet in the Milky Way.

The film is cleverly arranged by first-time feature length director, Dea Gjinovci. With trauma response being the underlying theme throughout, she appropriately tells the story in the most earnest way. Wide shot scene transitions feature the breathtaking views of Sweden’s expansive hills and lakes as the seasons change. They effectively become a visual metaphor for the metamorphosis of the family as they move towards ensuring their safety. Additionally, narration from the family is organic as opposed to a direct or staged interview.

Wake Up on Mars is a truly engaging masterpiece that drives home the feelings of frustration and uncertainty in the refugee experience along with family relations in the wake of trauma and uncertainty. This film will be a strong addition to any academic library, especially one with a focus on psychology, political science, and cultural studies. It also has an appeal to a general audience. Viewers should take note that the film contains English subtitles.

Official Selection, 2020 Tribeca Film Festival; Special Mention “Best New Talent,” 2020 Biografilm Festival; Nominated for the prize “Best Documentary Feature,” 2020 Hainan International Film Festival; Nominated for the prize “Prix de de Soleure” and “Prix Opéra Prima,” 2021 Journées de Soleure

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.