‘Wake Up on Mars’ Trailer: Tribeca Documentary Explores a Mysterious Illness Afflicting Refugees

Exclusive: Watch the trailer premiere for Dea Gjinovci's Tribeca debut about the "resignation syndrome" afflicting an immigrant family in Sweden.
Wake Up on Mars
"Wake Up on Mars"
Tribeca Film Festival

While the Tribeca Film Festival, previously scheduled for this month, may have been called off, many of the festival’s gems and premieres will live on as the event moves its program online. One such film, out of the Documentary Competition, is the world premiere of “Wake Up on Mars,” Dea Gjinovci’s delicate tale of a refugee Roma family living in Sweden who are affected by a sleeping “resignation syndrome.” Watch the beautiful first trailer, exclusive to IndieWire, below.

“Resignation syndrome” dates back to 1990s Sweden as a dissociative illness that mainly affects children and adolescents traumatized by the migration process, with depressive symptoms similar to a catatonic state. In “Wake Up on Mars,” Furkan, the youngest member of his Roma family, attempts to come to terms with the illness of his two sisters, Ibadeta and Djeneta. They’ve been in coma-like stasis for years, traumatized by the idea of being sent back to Kosovo, their homeland, as their minds and bodies appear to have gone to sleep. In Sweden, his family attempts to rebuild a normal life, but their asylum applications continue to be refused. Furkan flees from reality by constructing his own spaceship to fulfill his dream to live on Mars and save his sisters.

“Wake Up on Mars” is the feature debut of Swiss/Albanian director Gjinovci, who broke out of the 2019 Sundance Talent Forum and Film Independent fellowship. She said she drew inspiration for the film from a 2017 New Yorker article, “The Trauma of Facing Deportation,” about the effects of resignation syndrome on migrant children in Sweden. “A state of torpor in which they are no longer able to move or feed themselves without the help of a loved one,” she said in a director’s statement. “After reading this article, it is not the political aspect of the phenomenon that I wanted to highlight, but rather the psychological impact of this mysterious condition, a condition whose repercussions affect children, their relatives, as well as doctors who face it daily.”

Gjinovci said, “My goal was to cover visually every facet of their daily life: their asylum applications, regular visits to the hospital, the schooling of the two boys or the privacy of their home. However, the film is also tinted with a dreamlike dimension developed through the eyes of Furkan and the mission he has given himself to construct a spacecraft in order to bring his sisters to Mars.”

Watch the trailer for “Wake Up on Mars” below, and stay tuned for details on how to watch the film digitally via the Tribeca Film Festival.

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