on 1 April 2005
'In This World' delivers a convincing insight into the concealed world of human trafficing, and the desperate lengths some people will go to in order to seek a 'better' life in the Western World. Although this film is a finctionisation of true events, the combination of an amateur cast and third-person camerawork gives this film a documentary feel- it is all to easy to imagine these events taking place everyday around the world.
The film does not go out of it's way to evoke sympathy, tragegy is almost brutally ignored, rather than sentimentally dwelt upon, and there is no pretence of abject suffering in the lives of the unfortunate asylum seekers- merely the dream of a better life in London. Never-the-less one cannot help but be drawn to these compelling characters, and be dissatisfied with the film's conclusion- as with immigration as a whole, there are no answers to be found here.
This is the human face of immigration, and one too often hidden from the eyes of the world. Highly recommended.
on 15 October 2003
Once again Michael Winterbottom has proved he is the leading expert on foreign current affairs. ‘In This World’ gets 10/10 for gritty realism, as the documentary style in which it is filmed tends to make you forget what parts of the movie are fiction. ‘In This World’ has gone far beyond ‘Welcome to Sarajevo’ (another of Winterbottom’s portrayals of people in crisis) as the personal level in which it reaches the audience is unmatched by any other film I have seen. The personal struggle of Jamal and Enayat over-land from Pakistan (via Iran, Turkey, Italy and France) to London is riddled with danger they will have to overcome including border guards, greedy people traffickers and death round every corner. 'In This World' is a film everyone should see especially those with a foul attitude towards asylum seekers.
British filmmaking at its BEST
on 7 February 2006
In reply to the reviewer who stated that he didn't enjoy this film as it had a "dubious moral centre", I'm sorry but I really disagree...
The film is about the international community marginalising those who they are responsible for, these are refugees who have been bombed out of house and home by western governments and then made to live out a dead-end existence in refugee camps, throughout the film they are struggling to get back what has been forcibly taken from them, a free existence.
The ways they go about doing this are the only chance they have, I'm not saying your sympathys should lie with the characters, but the blame should not, this is a topical film of the current political climate.
anyway otherwise, fantastic acting, cinematography by a true modern great.
on 25 April 2009
The first thing to emphasise is that this is a work of fiction, even if it has strong roots in reality. While it has the feel of documentary, it isn't a documentary and on that level it leaves several questions unanswered. As a fiction film it relates to Iranian cinema, but it also relates to the road movie genre, a journey of discovery for the characters and the audience.
I almost never look at the "Extras" attached to a movie, but this one had me so intrigued about the relationship between "reality" and drama that I watched the excellent commentary by director Winterbottom and writer Tony Grisoni. It seems that they made a reconnaissance trip along the road from Afghanistan to London, informed by hundreds of interviews with refugees who had made the same trip previously, and incorporated incidents that happened to them along the way into the fictional story of two Afghan refugees trying to get out of a refugee camp to a better life. When the film came to be made along the way characters turned up in real life who went on to play themselves in fiction. So we thread in and out of reality, which gives the film its edge, but it is also a film full of poetry and wonderfully fictive (I mean, storytelling) editing.
There are many triumphs in this film, but not the least is the triumph of logistics, with fixers and units in four countries (they filmed illegally in Turkey) all coming together to make this seamless gem.
Other reviewers have commented negatively on the politics of the film, so it's probably good to set those out at the start. The voice over is quite clear. There are a million refugees in Peshawar on the north west frontier of Pakistan (that's half the population). They have been driven out of their homes first by the Russian invasion and then by the American and British bombing of 2001. In Shamshatoo camp there are 53,000 of them, children and young people who have never known any other life. We see them playing football, killing time endlessly, no jobs and no future, and no chance of returning. When they set off for the UK, it seems no more than justice that they should look for a life from those who took their life away from them.
This is a heavily committed film, as this description implies, but it doesn't "feel" as if we are got at. We are immersed in the details of the story, the finding the money to make the trip - something I don't personally find 100% convincing, given the amounts involved - but the film has to start somewhere. The handing on from one "minder" to another, the petty corruptions and the acts of kindness from people who have little or nothing themselves; the petty theft which is never glamourised but still challenges the viewer: "What would you do?"; the set-backs and returns, which never get the two travellers down. There is almost unbearable tension in an almost "Hollywood" sense as each border is reached, but it is never filmed in a Hollywood style. Instead, we share the journey, and we become identified totally with Jamal and Enayat.
Especially with Jamal, who is funded to go along by Enayat's father because Enayat doesn't speak English. Enayat is the older one, but it seems that 14-year-old Jamal is the wise one - also the linguist. Every country they pass through he ends up speaking the language - Farsi, Kurdish, Italian, French... It is not a charming or deliberately winning performance, but we are still drawn into desperately wanting them to get through. The scene where they are suffocating in a container crossing the Med is truly harrowing.
Those who want films to conform to their expectations and their prejudices will not see the look of grief on the stony face of Enayat's father when he learns what has happened to his son. They will not hear and see the power of the last scene with Jamal praying in the Regent's Park Mosque, fading to just the sound of his voice, the strange lapping of the syllables, urgent and desperately sad. But for anyone who looks to film to take them to places which are unfamiliar and into mindsets and experiences of others, this film will be an unforgettable trip along the roads of the diaspora of the marginalised and the dispossessed.
Be warned; don't watch this film with a strong moral view regarding immigration legal or otherwise this is simply the story of what many go through in order to reach the west.
We hear every day (in Europe at least) of illegal immigrants 'flooding the country' but we know almost nothing about them. This film goes some way to answer that question. Many are simply economic migrants rather than fleeing persecution in their homeland and many are arriving on our shores for no other reason that financial.
We see in the film how they bribe their way across Pakistan to Iran, how they change their clothes to 'blend in' with the locals, taken from there to South East Turkey (the smugglers heartland of that country) where they stay with Kurdish smugglers, passed on to sweat shops in the big cities they work until being shipped off to Europe.
The actors are genuine not least because they are migrants from their homeland its an interesting insight into the people we see everyday. From those begging or street vending in the big cities to working in the back of restaurants or on building sites.
Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film In This World is a brilliantly affecting fictional account of the epic journey undertaken by two Afghan refugees, who leave their refugee camp in Peshawar in North-West Pakistan in an attempt to build a new life in London. Shot in semi-documentary style and using a non-professional cast including the two actors (who Winterbottom, or at least his Casting Director, selected out of a potential cast of thousands) in the lead roles of Jamal and his elder cousin Enayat, the film is, for me, an unmitigated (and perhaps somewhat unexpected) triumph. Winterbottom is, of course, one of the UK's most talented and eclectic filmmakers whose career work has produced some ambitious, but not altogether successful, films such as 24 Hour Party People, Code 46, The Claim, Nine Songs and Genova, whilst at the same time proving that when he hits the mark, such as with his outstanding works Wonderland and Jude, he can make truly memorable films. In my view, In This World fits firmly into this latter category.
As is described by Winterbottom and his screenwriter Tony Grisoni in some detail in one of the DVD extras, In This World was an immense challenge to make, as the filmmakers had to chart (i.e. negotiate and haggle) their way through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Italy and France in order to get the film made. It is all the more remarkable therefore, given this logistically complex backdrop, that what has emerged is a coherent, and powerfully humane, account of Jamal and Enayat's (at times) extremely harrowing journey. Winterbottom creates an effective atmosphere of pervading tension and threat to the two protagonists as they are unsure who to trust - in one episode, Jamal is required to surrender his walkman in order for an unscrupulous border guard to allow them passage, whilst in another he is given as a gift a new pair of shoes with which to continue his journey. However, the film is not all doom and gloom by any means and Winterbottom also intersperses Jamal and Enayat's tale with some brilliant moments of poignant humour.
The look and feel of the film is greatly enhanced by the superb cinematography by Winterbottom's regular collaborator Marcel Zyskind, whose shots of the desolate landscapes of Iran, Turkey, etc, are frequently breathtaking. The film's soundtrack, composed by Dario Marianelli, is also outstanding, with the compellingly melodic mix of western and ethnic styles being skilfully deployed at key moments of emotional development throughout the film (reminiscent of the effect of the soundtrack to Wonderland).
One of the lasting memories I have from the film is the way Winterbottom transforms the viewer's take on the plight of refugees such as Jamal and Enayat, so that, for example, when the two travellers are exposed to glossy western images on television (in Turkey, I think) we are almost as shocked as the pair of Afghan refugees. Indeed, in a wider sense, the film's humane take on Jamal and Enayat's struggle should also influence the way in which we view such issues - for example, when we come across refugee beggars in the street.
An extraordinary film that is essential viewing.
Michael Winterbottom's oeuvre is so multi-faceted that it is difficult to talk of a Winterbottom style. Many of his movies are hit-and-miss: some are spot on. This is one of the latter. Even my mother, who is not renowned for her liberal attitudes to race and immigration, enjoyed this moving feature, for this is a moving (because horribly real) account of modern migration for people striving for what they think - but which is not - a better life. It is also an opportunity to see the true landscape of places in Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey.
It's an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan; it's February 2002. The film opens like a Panorama documentary about Afghan children, but we are soon drawn into a story of personal but epic proportions. Jamal is streetwise, speaks good English, and has a penchant for bad jokes; his elder cousin is Enayat, who is not so bright, and not so strong - as we see in the film - but he's a lad that come up with the goods when needed.
As one would expect there is a lot of drama along the way, as the lads are passed from minder to minder - just another cargo - and as different transport opportunities present themselves: from foot, to lorry, to coach, to pick-up, to ship, to train. Border guards have to be side-stepped; there are language problems, money problems, clothing problems. And tragedy too, on the Adriatic, for not all travellers successfully remain `in this world'.
The film is not for the squeamish (we witness the live ritual killing of an animal), but it has its amusing moments too. At one point, the lads meet up with a young family who are also being smuggled into Europe. "We're going to London," say Jamal and Enayat. "Where are you going?" "Denmark", the family replies, as if they are all at an airport choosing holiday destinations.
The soundtrack by Dario Marianelli, as usual with this composer, is superb. Why is this not on CD release?
The extras include a thirty-minute behind the scenes featurettes with the director and writer. We learn that it is a film based on real experiences by real people. They travelled to Peshawar with a small crew to start filming in the month after 9-11. We learn much about the background to the making of the film and we see some of the `home movies' made along the way. They were banned from filming in eastern Turkey, and interestingly received most hostility from the residents of Sangatte near Calais. Filmographies and a stills gallery make up the remainder of the generous extras.
on 13 March 2004
Over the last decade, Michael Winterbottom has emerged as the most intelligent and creative filmmaker working in Britain today. Unlike his contemporaries, he is unconcerned by the pressures of the U.S. and the importance of the Hollywood movie-system, and instead, has crafted a series of visually distinctive and emotionally heartfelt films dealing with a range of subjects; from sexual jealousy, infertility, modern-day alienation, the American frontier, and Manchester's vibrant post-punk music scene. His best films have fused dreamlike imagery (often drawing on Bergman and Kieslowski as his primary inspiration) with an almost-documentary sense of time, place and character. In This World takes that idea to new and unexplored levels, giving us a film that sets up an anti-reality, which allows the film to drift in and out of the real and the surreal at any given time to further establish the strained connection that the characters literally have with the world around them.
The sense of space seems lifted from the work of Iranian filmmakers like Samira Makhmalbaf (the Apple, Blackboards) with the idea of heightened reality coming from the employment of non-professional actors and the general cultural background of the characters. In the opening scenes, Winterbottom offers us an anachronistic narration to give the film a further sense of reality, whilst later scenes show townsfolk and children gazing with wonderment into the camera lens. This façade of the real, (though it is a fictional account based on fact) is so successful, that whenever a character died on screen the people who I viewed the film with questioned whether or not Winterbottom was creating some kind of art-house snuff. The actors are drawing on real experiences, and it is this element that gives the film its unrivalled emotional control and unbelievable sense of tragedy (lead 'actors' Enayatullah and, in particular, the young Jamal Udin Torabi, are both unconventionally outstanding).
Winterbottom keeps the episodic narrative running smoothly, using the fallen innocence of Jamal as the catalyst for the film. He anchors this with the use of imagery also; handheld digital video with jump cuts, slow motion, time-lapse, night-vision photography, colour filters... all are used to create a dislocated atmosphere, in an attempt to make the character's surroundings both alien and threatening. It works, Winterbottom, along with his cinematographer, create some of the most beautiful images of contemporary British cinema. Meanwhile, the technical transfer of the DVD brings out the best of the vibrant, rugged photography (though one minor let down in the lack of proper aspect ratio, the widescreen being the more generic TV 16x9, as opposed to the cinematic 2:35.1), whilst the 5.1 stereo-sound captures the wild-hustle and confusion of the locations perfectly.
Elsewhere on the DVD there are trailers, and a collection of behind the scenes footage with a voice-over from Winterbottom who discusses the difficulties his small crew faced in shooting the film and the impetuous behind it's evolution from a written script into a more documentary style-drama. Winterbottom's film is moving and compassionate without ever feeling the need to rely on cloying sentiment or exposition-by-numbers... he allows his film to unfold naturally, leaving it to the central performers to create a connection with the audience. It is so refreshing to see a contemporary British filmmaker shunning the influence of Hollywood and instead looking to filmmakers like Samira Makhmalbaf, Maryiam Parvin Almani and Abbas Kiarostami. Like the works of those individuals, this is important, intelligent, imaginative and above all else, serious filmmaking, which should be experienced by as many people as possible.
on 9 September 2013
Great to see the story (true) of an actual illegal immigrant, in this case a child, as opposed to the nasty and demonising coverage we often see in the gutter press.. The journey and what they go through is harrowing and it makes you realise how needy people are to make this sort of trip. For some if will be an education, for most it will confirm what you already knew - it's worth reminding yourself though. Sometimes we don't realise quite how cushy we've got it in this country, relatively speaking. People regularly died when emigrating from Britain to Australia and the states in previous generations - 'but for the grace of God...' comes to mind.
on 18 October 2015
A great film that we should all watch and discuss.