Inspired by a documentary featuring dogs being forced to fight inside car trunks, The Van tells the story of bare-knuckle fighting taking place in vans driven around rural Albania until one of the contestants is knocked out or killed. Amongst this community of fighters and gamblers is a young unnamed upcoming champ, (Phénix Brossard) – ‘the son’. Working with his father (Arben Bajraktaraj) during the day on building sites, the nameless fighter spends his evenings and weekends fighting strangers in vans for cash. With little work opportunities around where he lives, the son resorts to fighting to scrape enough cash together to escape to England with his father in the hopes of a better life. However, his father is reluctant to migrate – wishing to remain in Albania. The first-ever Albanian film to make its way into competition at Cannes after being shortlisted for the short film Palme d’Or in 2019, The Van is a blunt and brutal look at the extremes the youth of today will go for a chance at migration and the extremes their parents will go to to make them stay. 

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Photo © Origine films & Anima Pictures

Director Erenik Beqiri creates an authentic and perceptive portrayal of a strained father-and-son relationship, looking specifically at the emotional and financial pressure migration can put on a family. “I tried to channel the inner struggle of young and old Albanian generations hoping to build a better future” remarks Beqiri, something clearly evident in his film. While the son is more reckless in his ambitious, forfeiting to dangerous and short-term solutions to aid his future – the father is careful, worrying about the damage the son is doing to himself and his future by engaging in such brutal activities (the son’s fighting is something that loses him his construction job). Examining both the sensitive and more vicious sides of masculinity, Beqiri produces a complicated and nuanced look at paternity and the need to protect. Whether that be protecting your son from violence or a son sacrificing himself to bloodshed in order to give his father a new life.

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Photo © Origine films & Anima Pictures

Rolling out of vans with bleeding lips and swollen eyelids, one of The Van’s most impressive features is how the son physically transforms throughout the film. Supported by a remarkable makeup team documenting how the son’s physical appearance and health deteriorates more and more after every fight – the son’s face becomes one smeared with burst blood vessels, swelling and bloody cuts until he’s near unrecognisable and almost unable to see. As the son becomes a machine of violence and anger for others to profit off of, The Van hits home on the extremities and exploitation many young individuals are willing to put themselves through all for a new life.

Rounding off with a surprising but not unfitting ending, The Van is an invigorating and thoughtful understanding of masculinity, violence, and father-son relationships. Filmed beautifully and with standout performances from both father and son, Beqiri constructs a realistic and succinct look at the sacrifices individuals are willing to make for the ones they love. 

Rating: b2c4a-4.52bstars

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Photo © Origine films & Anima Pictures

Written by Abi Aherne

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About View of the Arts

We are open-minded individuals, for whom there are no limits. We always seem to spend our last few pennies on the arts instead of bread and butter! Oh well, it’s worth it! You will always find us in a cinema, at film festivals, fashion shows, concerts, galleries or the theatre. We are a group of female film critics, arts journalists, and photographers.

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Film, Film events and festivals, Foreign Films, General, Short films

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