Two teenage sisters, Ibadeta and Djeneta, lie in a vegetative state in the small Swedish home of their Kosovar family. The cause of their mysterious malady is known as “resignation syndrome,” entwined with their personal trauma experienced as refugees shuttled between two countries. As their devoted parents work to keep their daughters alive while awaiting updates on their immigration status, their youngest son, Furkhan, imagines a life beyond the snowy expanse of his temporary backyard—and into the far reaches of space. Furkhan’s desire to build his dream ship to the stars, escaping the unimaginable reality of his sisters’ illness, serves as a powerful, visually arresting metaphor for the contemporary refugee experience. But will Furkhan and his family be forced to return to Kosovo before he finishes his masterpiece and his sisters return to consciousness?
First-time feature filmmaker Dea Gjinovci brings this mind-boggling true story of trauma and perseverance to life with nuance, dazzling photography, and more than a touch of magic.—Liza Domnitz
Dea Gjinovci is a Swiss-Albanian filmmaker living in Paris. Her award-winning documentary short Sans le Kosovo won Best National Film at Dokufest 2017. Wake Up on Mars is her first feature-length documentary. She is a 2019 Film Independent Fellow and a Sundance Talent Forum 2019 alumna.