Germinal Roaux, Switzerland, 2018

Windswept, stark and cold. Both the place and her life.

Fortuna is a 14 year-old Ethiopian refugee who has found her way to a remote monastery in the Swiss Mountains, where the five monks have sacrificied their life of quiet solitude to take in people in need. Yet the film retains the peace of this place. With not much soundtrack and sparse dialogue (nice slow subtitles!), it’s infused with such a sense of stillness and reflection, slow and contemplative.

But we also feel the strength of natural forces, set against the insignificance of the individual. In the immense, snow-covered mountains, or the endlessly moving limitless sea of her journey by boat, Fortuna is completely powerless to determine her own fate. Same with the authorities. Same with her own body. She prays to a god who doesn’t hear her. All she can do is care for those with even less agency than her – the donkey and the chickens.

In the end, though, a glimmer of hope for sweet, sad Fortuna, as the head monk insists that she be allowed to choose what happens to her. Beautiful film.

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