Zozo (2005) is a movie written and directed by the Swedish-Lebanese director Josef Fares, known for his comedies about Middle Eastern immigrants in Sweden. The film tells the story of young Zozo, who lives in Beirut at the time of the Lebanese civil war. After losing his family to the war, Zozo leaves Lebanon to live with relatives in Sweden, where he faces many issues as a part of the only immigrant family in a somewhat xenophobic but typical small Swedish town.
This movie is a clear example of a production’s reactions to intertextuality; Zozo is said to be in part a biography of Fares’s own childhood, but should additionally be seen as a reaction to a time of great attention on issues regarding Middle Eastern immigrants in Sweden. For example, in 2003, the Swedish-Tunisian author Jonas Hassen Khemiri published a book called One Eye Red (Ett Öga Rött), also portraying a Middle Eastern boy’s struggle to integrate into Swedish society, which caused a great stir in the Swedish cultural sphere. Such intertextual events probably inspired Fares in his production of Zozo, which in its sympathy with Zozo critiques the xenophobia in Sweden.
Zozo is also polyglossic: partly in Arabic with Swedish subtitles, and partly in Swedish. The language is quite politically charged, as it works not only as a separation of environments (Lebanon and Sweden, home and school), but also as a display for separation of groups of people, this most clearly between Middle Eastern immigrants and native Swedes. Much like in the Israeli movie Sallah (1964), where dialects of Hebrew are used as a tool of estrangement, the Swedish accents used in Zozo correspond to prejudices of Middle Eastern immigrants in Sweden and noticeably separate them from the Swedes. However, rather than simply adding a tone of comedy, it works as a critique towards Swedish nationalism. Zozo clearly shows that politics of representation in movies exist in many contexts across the world.
Click here to watch the trailer.