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EUFF 2017 Review: “The Citizen” (2016) ★★★★★


I am not sure how one can capture the whole truth of the life of an undocumented refugee or of someone who tries to get an official status in a foreign country to be able to call it ‘home’. There is always a person in the judicial system to undermine any defense or explanation provided by the immigrant to send them back home. And yet, does anyone really try to get to the core of the issue? Maybe, if they do that, they’ll realize that in some cases it is their country that would be fortunate to have that new citizen, who will not take their new home for granted. Maybe, that person will truly live every day of their life as a lawful resident and will cherish their new home like the most expensive diamond.

Wilson Ugabe is a refugee who has been living in Budapest long enough to be eligible for applying for a citizenship. Unfortunately, he fails one interview after another. His mind is always filled with problems he has left behind. After being denied the citizenship and given another year to prepare for the next meeting thoroughly, Ugabe meets Maria – a woman of the same age as him and who is willing to help Wilson with his next test. Every lesson she gives him is eventful and informative. The man learns so many things about Hungary that he had no idea about. He also realizes that in his heart there is room for more desires. He slowly falls for his teacher, whose affection towards him turns out to be mutual.

During his next meeting, Wilson tries to explain to the immigration judge his understanding of Hungary’s anthem but finds himself cross-fired with questions. Eventually, he tries in his own way to explain why he can’t die in the same country where he was born. In the country, where he has lost his unborn child or witnessed rivers of blood. Things, that nobody should see in life. Even that story does not sound strong or touching enough for the judge, who asks Wilson to prepare better for the next interview. Also, Wilson gives a place to stay to his friend Shirin – a pregnant woman from Iran, who has run away from the refugee camp and has no legal documents to show in Hungary.

While our protagonist tries to fix his own life, Maria’s appearance brings him the happiness his life has been missing. But it is also due to her that he realizes that no matter what, he was and always will be like an alien in this country. He will never become a proud member of this society. Shirin goes through her own path, experiencing every fear a lawful or unlawful refugee goes through on a daily basis in the country that will always consider them as a second-class immigrant.

In conclusion, “The Citizen”, co-written by Roland Vranik, is a powerful and uncompromising film, giving us a truthful overview of the life of immigrants in Europe. I am sure, many of us do not know much about what these people go through. What this film captures is real, fair and square. It is not a film that tried to be politically correct and shows us how great the system is. Instead, it clearly emphasizes the gaps the same system has, that fails almost everyone who gets close to it. This is why I am sure this is a must-see for every non-European viewer. Furthermore, it might be painful to sit through this film, but it is important and necessary for us to realize how grateful we should be for all these privileges we get, while in some other countries in this world, such privileges are a luxury only selected ones can afford to have.

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