The issue of illegal migrants and the bond between father and son are the thread that binds Babai (Father) together. In this movie directed by Visar Morina, we are introduced to Gezim Berisha (Astrit Kabashi), a cigarette peddler with his son Nori (Val Maloku). His wife has reportedly left them, and they live in a communal home with their relatives – Uncle Adem (Enver Petrovci) and his family. Gezim wants to find a better life in the west, and wants to do so without Nori – and after several failed attempts, he manages to take the bus to Montenegro and continue on to Germany – with the assistance of some people smugglers. Nori is determined to find his dad – with the help of Valentina (Adriana Matoshi), a neighbour who he must rely on for the dangerous journey to the west.
The movie deals with a difficult subject and it does highlight the hardship and perils that illegal migrants have to face in their quest to find a better life. Even when migrants manage to make it to the west, Babai also shows that it is not the land of milk and honey for them as they continue to be isolated. It is shown painfully through the eyes of a ten-year old, who has to learn about being street-smart beyond his age and with his father’s repeated attempts to flee to the west, shattering his sense of security. You get to see how the value of life gets so diminished when self-preservation and survival mode takes hold – in one of the scene off the coast of Italy, the people smuggler throws some of the migrants to the sea just to slow down the sea patrols. You also get a sense that children are just pawns and an inconvenience in the process – although we can see that Gezim loves Nori, he can’t wait to ditch him so he can lead a better life elsewhere, destroying Nori’s character in the process.
Babai is a powerful film – initially I thought that the characters are Albanians but after knowing that they are Kosovans, it gives further insight why want to find a better life in the west. One may argue that life is not that bad back home, however, some of the scenes provide some hints of the simmering tension in the village with the Serbian government and officials. People will want to find a better life – either in their homeland or beyond, and this movie provides a subtle message that a fix to the refugee crisis that is engulfing Europe at the moment may lie in improving the condition at home – otherwise we will be left with a ‘scarred’ future generation.