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A Warm Heart and Frozen Kebab

Production year: 2007 | 1*29 | Genres: Lifestyle / Travel
A bright-red van battles its way through a blinding snowstorm on Spitsbergen. At the wheel is Iranian Kazem Arialwand (48).
Origin country: Norway
Production company: NRK Norsk Rikskringkasting AS
Original title: Varmt hjerte og frossen kebab
Original language: Norwegian
Formats: SD

A bright-red van battles its way through a blinding snowstorm on Spitsbergen. At the wheel is Iranian Kazem Arialwand (48). By rights he should have been deported long ago, but Spitsbergen, an asylum-seeker's haven, has proved his salvation.

Without a visa, Kazem is unable to visit his son in mainland Norway, a son he has not seen for three long years. Meanwhile, he is busy realizing his plan to open Spitsbergen's first mobile kebab takeaway. He has purchased a clapped-out American army vehicle, painted it a garish red and named it 'Rød Isbjørn' (Red Polar Bear).

Kazem is determined to succeed. He misses his family, but refuses to give up. 'If I can open a fastfood outlet here at the North Pole,' he says, 'I may find happiness.'

Kazem was denied a residence permit in Norway, compelling him to part from his grown-up son, who was allowed to stay. Fearing that he would never see his son again if he returned to Iran, Kazem packed a thick winter jacket and made his way to Spitsbergen. Wanting to remain as close to his son as possible, he chose to live alone in freedom rather than illegally in Norway.

Although under Norwegian jurisdiction, the arctic archipelago of Svalbard is international territory, which means that anyone is at liberty to settle there without a passport or visa. But freedom has its price.

The climate is unbelievably harsh and the terrain inhospitable in the extreme. Winter darkness lasts for six months, and temperatures can fall to as low as -40 degrees C. Public assistance is non-existent and the health service leaves a lot to be desired. Should Kazem fall seriously ill, he would have to be transported to the mainland for treatment, and that might well result in deportation.

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