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In This World

The journey to freedom has no borders. 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from In This World

We are living in a time when more and more people are shunning the rat race and opting for a quieter life in the country. Living off hefty salaries makes way for living off the land, and the phrase "bringing home the bacon" takes on a whole new meaning with the reliance on animal husbandry. However, it's easy to forget that there are those who already live in such circumstances and can't wait to get away from it. But what is it about our stress-filled lives that these people want? Whatever it is, it's enough to risk their lives for. And then we realize the ignorant and arrogant lives we've been living; the luxury of taking survival for granted.

"In this World" tells the real-life story of Jamal Udin Torabi (played by himself), a 16-year-old Afghan boy who lives with his family in the Shamshatoo refugee camp in Pakistan. His cousin Enayatullah (Enayatullah) is sent to London and because Jamal speaks English, he is allowed to go along as a translator and companion. The two make a deal with a human-trafficker, betting their borrowings and life savings on a one-way ticket to London, where another cousin is waiting for them.

The smuggler puts them on what is known as The Silk Road, a long, and at times harrowing, journey through Iran, Turkey, Italy and France. Short on money, lacking proper papers, and forced to travel in trucks, lorries, and shipping containers, the two boys find themselves at the mercy of the people-smugglers who make their living out of others' misery. Soon they find that their route is littered with stolen cash, broken dreams and dead bodies.

With this film, Michael Winterbottom has created a striking addition to his portfolio, which includes the excellent Bosnian war movie, Welcome to Sarajevo. Shot with a small digital camera, this film is not a documentary, although many of the scenes were apparently taken without the knowledge of the people in them and has a real sense of urgency. The cast of unknowns do well, with the lead Jamal Udin Torabi revealing a real character. Also, most of the dialogue is improvised, based on a script from interviews with others who made the journey.

This film shows that the struggle for survival is common in every part of the world; it simply takes a different shape or form. A stark, intelligent, and essential film to see.

Alex Coe

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Summer Term (35mm)