Smuggling Hendrix is a smart comedy that uses the plight of a hapless dog owner who must transport his beloved canine across the border in Cyprus to explore larger issues of occupation, citizenship, and the deep scars left by internal displacement.
But most importantly, there is a super cute dog.
Yianni (played by Adam Bousdoukos) is an underachieving Greek Cypriot who is running last minute errands before emigrating from Cyprus when his scamp of a dog Jimi gets away from him and manages to end up on the other side of the border in Turkish occupied Cyprus. What follows is a complicated journey to bring Jimi home that is sometimes sad, often frustrating, but usually quite funny in an absurd sort of way.
On the surface, the storyline feels slight and possibly even underdeveloped. But it quickly grows layers as Yianni crosses into Turkish-occupied Cyprus and is forced to confront his feelings of anger at being displaced following the way in the 1970s that saw Cyprus split between the Greek side and the Turkish side.
In order to have any shot at rescuing Jimi, he has to enlist the aid of a Turkish Cypriot named Hasan (wonderfully brought to life by Fatih Al) whose dreams of moving to Europe and building a better life for his family are stymied by the fact that he is a "settler". Although he was born in Cyprus and considers himself a Cypriot, he does not have citizenship or a valid passport and is, therefore, unable to leave the small disputed territory of Northern Cyprus that is not recognized by the international community.
The relationships between these characters, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, have a heavy weight to them: after decades of war, distrust, and negative views of one another, there is a simmering resentment on both sides that lies just below the surface. Although Hasan and Yianni work together throughout the film and in many ways develop an authentic friendship, the impulse is strong to fall back on ethnic insults and old grievances the minute complications occur, and they are both only partially successful in overcoming that particular urge.
Overall, the pervasive theme of Smuggling Hendrix is one of stagnation. Many of the characters have aspirations of leaving Cyprus and moving on with their lives: Hasan dreams of one day taking his family to Europe, and Yianni is actively in the process of moving to the Netherlands as the film begins. But they all seem stuck, somehow, waiting for some sort of resolution -- until then, they are all in a holding pattern.
This is a reflection of not just the personal lives of these specific characters, but also the precarious, uncertain future of Cyprus itself. Everyone seems to be putting their lives on hold, hoping that Cyprus will find a solution to the uneasy, quasi-conflicted state that exists between the Turkish and Greek-controlled sides of the island. One day, there were be a permanent solution, one day Cyprus will be admitted into the European Union, and then everything will change for the better. But until then...well, what can one do but wait and hope?