Easy Land @ TIFF

Because it is such a hot button issue in the world today, immigration and immigrants have been dealt with in plenty of film of late. Canadian film Easy Land brings to the table a whole new side of the discussion. Not only looking at the adaptation to a new society/culture that immigrants have to go through, but also how others perceive them. All things happens alongside all of the various life issues which each human has to confront. The plates of immigrants are rather full, in other words.

Directed by Sanja Zivkovic the film is about two Serbian immigrants who come to Toronto to live. Neither is having an easy time with it. Nina (Nina Kiri – from television’s The Handmaid’s Tale) has already failed grade 12 once and while repeating it gets into trouble due to a fight with a female student. A punishment will come. Her mother Jasna (Mirjana Jokovic – Maid in Manhattan, At Middleton) is having an equally tough time. She dreams of working as an architect again, but for now is working at an interior design firm run by a woman named Linda (Sarah Deakins – appeared in episodes of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan and Supernatural), who just gives her meanial tasks like cleaning to do.

Jasna, who was traumatized by what she witnessed in Serbia, has suffered from a mental illness for a time. Often caught up in bipolar cycles where she works on architectural projects she comes up with every waking moment. She is in one of these cycles right now. Working on a housing project for new immigrants, Jasna has started sleeping with Ben (Richard Clarkin – Goon, Land of the Dead), who owns a design/construction firm, and believes he will develop her idea. Not realizing Ben is just in it for the sex. Things go from bad to worse when Jasna stops taking her meds and walks out on her job.

Nina, who dreams of moving back to Serbia to be with the boy she left behind, is in a special class with Arman (Sammy Azero – from television’s In the Dark), a guy who gets her stolen cell phones to sell and has indicated he wouldn’t mind sleeping with her. Her teacher in the class has assigned her to shadow the director (Daniel Kash – Aliens, Robocop – 2014) of a local theatre company. She hates it in the beginning. Just sits in the back and looks at her phone.

Both of the women, for different reasons, seem to be heading for a breaking point. And because their mother-daughter relationship isn’t strong, they don’t have anyone to lean on when that happens.

For her feature film debut, director Sanja Zivkovic tackles a story of several layers. On the surface it seems like a rather simple story of immigrants struggling to make a life for themselves in a new country. You have got adaptation issues and the struggle to make money. The story (not the subject, however) seems like a simple one. You then realize there is plenty going on here – the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, mental illness and what it does to a family and finally young love. The more the film goes on the more layers unpeel like an onion.

It is a human story and humans are complex and messy. Rarely are things simple or easy. That is doubly or more so true when it comes to immigrants. Most places, even Canada, are not very welcoming of newcomers. They are looked at as “different” because of the colour of their skin, the language they speak, the traditions they follow, or even the religions they believe in. Finding friends isn’t easy. Finding work isn’t easy. Fitting in isn’t easy. They really have to work for the simplest things and Easy Land makes you acutely aware of this struggle.

Instead of being plot driven, this film moves along at an even pace just giving you a picture of a period in the lives of the two women. This allows the idea of what it is to be an immigrant to sink in and take hold. The pacing does not mean it is dull, rather allows the emotionality of the film to be organically birthed.

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