In This World

 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 have constantly alerted 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 fears.

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 to ponder.

LONDON - 9 May 2003 - 483 words

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