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Wake Up On Mars
by Karen Pecota

First-time feature filmmaker Dea Gjinovci brings to the silver screen a story of hope, resilience, and the unconditional love of family in Wake Up On Mars. Gjinovci is a Swiss-Albanian filmmaker living in Paris. Her award-winning documentary short Sans Le Kosovo won Best National Film at Dokufest 2017. She is a 2019 Film Independent Fellow and a Sundance Talent Forum 2019 alumna. We will witness her amazing creativity in her first feature documentary as she uses child-like faith to move the impossible in the real world through imagination and hope.

Based on a true story Wake Up On Mars is about the Demin family who flees to Sweden from persecution as an ethnic minority in postwar Kosovo on their path toward freedom. The youngest son, Furkhan is the storyteller. He documents the horrific account of their journey but incorporates the most delightful child-like infusions giving hope to their plight.

The personal trauma experienced as refugees put Furkhan’s two teenage sisters, Ibadeta and Djeneta, in a lying vegetative existence. The diagnosis is known as "resignation syndrome." The devotion of their parents to keep the girls alive while the family awaits an update on their immigration status is remarkable. Observing Furkhan’s parents manuever the day-in and day-out intensive care to keep the girls moving proved to be loving devotion beyond words.

Furkhan imagines a life beyond his current existence of pain and sorrow and dreams that one day he will wake up on Mars or possibly the far reaches of space. Furkhan begins to build his dream spaceship out of scraps from the junk yard that will one day take him to the stars. His imagination that places him beyond his current surroundings is one that he passes on to his sisters every day. Though the sisters lay in comatose, Furkhan updates them on the progress of his spaceship and tells them to get ready for an adventure in outer space with him. He is convinced they hear him, understand him, and are preparing to accompany him. Fukhan's only fear is that the family will be sent back to Kosovo from Sweden before his mode of travel to Mars is complete. This would delay the sibling adventure to outer space and his sister's ability to wake-up and return to consciousness. To dream the impossible is the hope Furkhan clings.