IN THIS WORLD: DVD
In Peshawar, the family of young Afghani cousins Jamal (Jamal Udin Torabi) and Enat (Enayatullah) bribe people smugglers to send the two boys to London for a better life. From Shamshatoo refugee camp in the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, just across the border, the youngsters take the cheap overland route, in trucks and on foot, across Tehran to Iran and through Turkey. From Istanbul, the boys, along with other refugees, are locked into a ship's container heading for Trieste. Some don't survive the 40 hour sea trip, before the final leg across Europe to the refugee camp at Sangett in northern France, and finally hiding on the Eurostar to London.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Michael Winterbottom's sincere and admirable intentions are to show the world the dangers and the awful conditions of those desperate enough to leave their homeland illegally and bribe their way to a new life in the West. His compassion sticks out like a shining broadsword, and his big hearted, physically demanding film will no doubt be seen by all the wrong people: that is, the converted - those who align themselves with the sympathetic left, stand up for human rights and genuinely desire a better world.
Unfortunately, they aren't the people who Winterbottom needs to convert. Besides, this is not a film that will convert anyone, I'm afraid. Sincerity is no substitute for storytelling, and compressing an arduous four month journey into 88 minutes doesn't have the intended effect of showing the harrowing nature of the task.
Instead, it makes for an often disjointed, crudely film shot on hand held video, barely held aloft by its music, often drained of context. (Like the scene of an ox having its head cut off.)
For us to go on this journey with any sort of empathy, we need to get closer to the travellers than Winterbottom allows. The drama inherent in stories such as this (and this was cobbled together from many similar experiences) has not been captured.
And the political problem Winterbottom has walked into is that the youngsters do not seem to be running away from any sort of political or religious persecution - just poverty and their woeful, third world living conditions. This plays into the hands of xenophobes who lump all refugees together as parasites and free-loaders, and want to close their borders to them, along with their hearts.
Published September 2, 2004
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IN THIS WORLD: DVD (M)
CAST: Jamal Udin Torabi, Enayatullah
DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom
SCRIPT: Tony Grisoni
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: N/a
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Magna Pacific
DVD RELEASE: September 8, 2004