In This World
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Jamal Udin Torabi, Enayatullah
Duration: 88 minutes
In the crowded Afghan refugee camps outside Peshawar on the
northwest frontier of Pakistan, two young cousins, Enayat
and Jamal, set out overland for London. No ID documents, a
little money, a little English, at the mercy of people smugglers,
they make their way through Iran (and are sent back to Pakistan),
back through Iran, over the Turkish mountains to Istanbul,
locked in a container on a boat to Trieste... Asylum seekers.
Controversies rage in Britain and other European countries.
The closure of the temporary camp at Sangatte on the Channel
coast where so many refugees jumped trains and trucks to attempt
a concealed journey to England led to an influx into England.
These are social and political topics that led to heated arguments
prior to the war on Iraq. In the aftermath of the war, thousands
of displaced people will be on the move again. Catholic papers
like The Universe have constantly alerted its readers to the
plight of the Iraquis and other refugees. What should be done?
British director, Michael Winterbottom, offers one answer:
put a face on these anonymous refugees, show their story so
that the argument will not just be about statistics or unspecified
When <In This World> won the Ecumenical Prize at this
year's Berlin Film Festival from a jury consisting of three
Catholics representing SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association
for Communication, and three members representing Interfilm,
the Protestant Organisation for Film Festival juries, commentators
were pleased that the Churches had acknowledged the global
problems of millions of people on the move. The next day,
the press was very surprised that this small-budget film running
under 90 minutes won the main award, the Golden Bear.
While we see news items about the refugees, and they are frequently
alarmist in tone, few of us know many of them or even any
of them. Winterbottom has taken a small digital video camera
and re-created the harsh journey from Peshawar to London and
invites us to accompany him. We get to know the two cousins,
especially Jamal and share with them the uncertainties of
the journey. None of us would like to spend our lives and
see our future in the camp in Peshawar, dusty, crowded, limited
access to water. We would try to get out.
During the journey, which has more comforts these days like
bus travel and phone calls, we experience the two boys limited
language skills, their having to trust so many people who
might swindle them, the interrogations by police. As they
get closer to their goal, they are trapped in the container
ship and, like the 58 Chinese who suffocated in the back of
a truck two years ago, not everyone survives.
Afghans have been refugees in Pakistan since the Russian invasion
over twenty years ago. Others fled the Taliban. Others fled
the bombings of 2001. There are more than three million Afghan
refugees in Iran alone. When the bombs stop falling, how will
the people live, where can they go? And, without explicitly
asking its audience, this is what this film challenges us