TIFF 2019: NOBADI

As always, many thanks to Courtney of Cinemaaxis.com.

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What initially seems like potential commentary on Middle-Eastern immigrants flocking to Europe transforms into a dark chamber piece, using the aforementioned construct to initiate a chance meeting between two people who have nothing in common, but over the course of one night share many intimate moments.

The film begins on a dark note and rarely deviates from this path, beginning with the death of an old man’s dog. Senft (Heinz Trixner) heads out to buy a new pickaxe, and on his trip home he is spotted by a young Afghani immigrant (Borhanulddin Hassan Zadeh). Desperate to work, when he sees Senft carrying a pickaxe, he follows him home and eventually offers to help despite not knowing what his work will entail.

Soon, the two talk over lunch, the young man’s fluent German allowing him to converse without issue, and initially this is the only thing that the two have in common. Soon Nobadi is humanised both to Senft and to the audience when he reveals his real name, Ghubar. Nobadi was a nickname given to him in a ‘camp’ that he stayed in, what sort of camp though – much like his phone –  we don’t see. 

After finishing his work, they part ways and Ghubar makes his way to the nearest bus stop. Having nowhere to sleep though, Senft later finds him sleeping at the stop, and helps him limp back to his house, a limp he had previously hidden to guarantee work. Now though, it is impossible to ignore as it looks like he has a fever. Senft’s past as a medic takes over and despite any judgement he may have had previously, considering it is highly likely he is a former Nazi soldier given previous comments, he is now willing to help Ghubar to the best of his ability.

His decision to take responsibility forms a strong narrative that is impossible to predict, while never relenting on its dark tone. 

Suddenly, the death of his dog is barely in the back of his mind as he cares for the young man, refusing to go to hospital due to a lack of formal papers. The old man’s initial judgments of Ghubar are challenged and/or transformed as he now feels responsible for the injury, one Ghubar suffered through while working for him. For three Euros an hour. 

Through their connection, Nobadi becomes a fascinating rumination on many existential realities of humanity. Despite their differences on the surface, their commonalities touch on the nature of identity, the impact of relationships, and the pain of past experience that will forever leave a scar.

Karl Markovic’s film excellently captures our tendency to not look at what we must, no matter how painful the reality, such as Senft’s hesitance to bury his dog, or Ghubar’s ignorance of his injury. Nobadi also highlights, and underlines, the responsibility one must take for their actions, and ultimately, how they may create an undesired reality that can never be undone.


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