The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - EUROPA | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - EUROPA

europa review
A refugee finds himself the target of hunters as he attempts to cross the Turkish-Bulgarian border.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Haider Rashid

Starring: Adam Ali, Erfan Rashid, Gassid Mohammed, Svetlana Yancheva, Mohamed Zouaoui

europa poster

Timely.

At the time of writing 2.5 million nationals have fled Ukraine in hope of sanctuary from the senseless destruction of their homeland. As we are arguably the most self-interested, insular country on planet Earth, the impact of those seeking asylum here in the UK has, however, been minimal, with figures ‘ranging’ to less than 1,000 (and, yes, before the usual flag shaggers crop up in my dms, I am aware that on the 10th March there were concessions which allowed Ukrainians with passports to apply for visas here, but only via the disentanglement of a byzantine web of bureaucracy; biometrics, unacquainted websites, etc). Meanwhile, we ban Russia from Eurovision (as if it’s the fault of the already-suffered-enough gays), we seize the assets of some football person, we wring our hands: big wows. Of course, Putin is deranged, and calling his bluff is going to be calamitous. But I’m not talking about retaliation, I am advocating the same compassion to the victims of war modelled by Poland, by Italy, by the countries with which we share the very world which hangs in the balance. Instead, we watch from a position of luxury, tut-tutting while human beings huddle in fear at our borders, and are ultimately refused shelter and protection. Priti Patel, Kevin Foster, Boris Johnson, the media which has been an active agitator of Britain's migrant-bashing tendencies, anyone who voted to support this venal system: you make me fucking sick. You should be ashamed.

europa review

Haider Rashid’s Europa (with writing support from Sonia Giannetto and Erfan Rashid) is not explicitly about the scandalous treatment of Ukrainian refugees by the UK Home Office, but is instead an apt representation of the refugee experience, in which we follow an Iraqi asylum seeker attempting to cross the Turkish-Bulgarian boundary to reach ‘Fortress Europe’.


It opens in a nerve wracked confusion which perpetuates throughout the film: by furtive torchlight, money exchanges hands and orders are barked at a beleaguered mass of men and women both young and old. A gate is suddenly opened and we hone in on Kamal (Adam Ali) rushing through it. Kamal races into further chaos across the border as waiting men grab others who are on the run, fierce dogs bark, and guns are fired.

europa review

It feels unreal, like the Cornucopia in The Hunger Games or something, except Rashid based his story on interviews and the actual experiences of people who have survived similarly perilous journeys (the sequence is preceded by intertitle cards which explicate the links between criminal enterprise and border control, and how migrants are exploited by both. It also explains the ‘Nationalist Civilians’ who have set themselves up as ‘Migrant Hunters’, i.e., tough guys with guns picking off the world’s easiest prey).


Escaped Kamal, in his Salah football shirt (a concession to the West’s seductive cultural imperialism), trudges through forests in searing sunlight. He is wounded, half starved and dehydrated - we see him crack the speckled cyan shell of a blackbird egg and gulp down the vivid yolk within (kudos to Ali, whose performance is devastatingly physical - dragging himself up, across, and through this unforgiving terrain).

europa review

Europa is respectively shot with an incessant urgency, the sort of ruined energy you get when you’re overtired, and at the edge of your resolve. DoP Jacopo Caramella frames almost exclusively in mid-shots or close up, which entails that we don’t get the context of Kamal’s surroundings; like him, we have no idea where he is, or where he is going. Discomfiting as this visual set is, it is essential to Rashid’s intentions: as we cut rapidly between shots a distinct agitation is communicated, we feel Kamal’s desperation as a branch cracks, potentially heralding the gun toting men who pursue him, men whose familiarity with the land, and resources, far outweigh that of our tattered protagonist. It’s gruelling to watch him. (A side note: is it me, or with that embarrassing The Hunt film, the forthcoming Edgar Wright remake of The Running Man, the endless Purges, is there a resurgent vogue for films where people hunt each other..?).

There are intermittent moments of humanity in Europa. A driver picks up a bleeding Kamal from the roadside. She shares her water with him and seems set to get him to the hospital until the radio (the Bulgarian equivalent of Julia Hartley Brewer?) babbles something about ‘politicos....Syrians.... Iraqis’, unnerving the woman enough to jettison our boy (the sequence is masterful, with the non-conversant audience compelled, just like Kamal, to pick out and make sense of vaguely familiar words, too). Later, a farmer may or may not be a friend. But when these instances occur, when someone offers Kamal kindness, your emotions surge. Your eyes blur. And you wonder, have we fallen so far that witnessing a person just doing something as simple and obvious as helping a fellow human is so easily able to break your heart?

Europa is in UK cinemas and on VOD from March 18th.



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