Pursuit of Freedom

PURSUIT OF FREEDOM DEMONSTRATES REFUGEE ANGST

Based on a true story, Pursuit of Freedom begins in 2007, when life of a Ukrainian family near the Russian border is depicted as precarious (though most filming is in a town in Texas). Razmig (Mike Markoff), the father, is trying to support his wife, three children, and a grandmother. He is unsuccessful, unlucky at gambling, and he endures brutal mistreatment. His gambling debt results in members of a Russian mafia trafficking the mother Anna (Jessica Koloian), who is shipped to Amsterdam and held as a prostitute until she is so ill that her captors dump her on the street, whereupon she is taken to a hospital and encouraged to get will by her nurse, Naomi (Sharonne Lanier). Meanwhile, grandma Anastasiya (Mimi Sagadin) drives their three children to Armenia where they can hide out with their aunt, Ovsanna (Anna Terry), who lives in poverty in a dilapidated housing unit of Spitak, which was almost destroyed by an earthquake in 1988. The children have no papers, and therefore are stateless. Three years pass. Anna, initially haunted by nightmares, recovers and wants to see her children. Meanwhile, a compassionate American Christian pastor, Bill (Robert Amaya), comes to the rescue when he hears about the separation of the mother from her children. The family is reconnected by cellphone, so the question becomes who will go where to achieve family reunification. Naomi presents her to Dutch authorities, who will not allow her to make a flight due to her poor health. Thanks to Bill’s friend, Bedros (Stelio Savante), the three children fly to Amsterdam, thanks to arrangements by a considerate member of the Armenian government. The film ends when the three greet their mother in the airport. Credits at the end indicate what happened to mother and children by 2020.

Directed and written by George Johnson, the film tells a story of extraordinary compassion. The angst suffered by almost everyone and the obstacles to freedom are many, not just bureaucratic. That Christians can practice their faith is perhaps the point of the film, which is far more gruesome than Flee, which dealt with how Afghan refugees pursued their freedom. The Political Film Society has nominated Pursuit of Freedom for an award as best film of 2022 on human rights. MH

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