Thursday, June 22, 2006

Out of this world

I’m feeling a bit shell-shocked. Went with Shoefiend to watch ‘In this World’ at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre last night. Directed by Micheal Winterbottom, it is a documentary following 2 young Afghans, Enayatullah and Jamal, from a camp in Pakistan making their journey overland to London with the help of people smugglers. The film shows every horrible struggle of their journey: sitting in the back of lorries driving endlessly on dusty roads, being caught by authorities at a check post in Iran and sent back, bribing someone to get back on their journey, having to exchange their attire for something that would make them fit in, walking for days through a dusty cold plain, and then over snow laden mountains, being shot at by Turkish authorities, working off their accommodation in a sweat shop, being transported hidden among a truck of orange crates, being shipped in a metal sea container for 40 hours with dire consequences, hanging off the underbelly of a truck supported by nothing but two wooden planks and sheer willpower. All this with a small bag each and the single-minded goal of reaching a supposedly better life in London. I haven’t recounted the story very well and I suggest you read some more official reviews here and here.

The beauty of the film lies in capturing not only their journey in such detail but in showing you the hope & persistence that these two young journeymen have. Throughout the journey Jamal tells funny stories and jokes to keep Enayatullah amused. Enayatullah shows his wordly-wise side by hiding money in his shoe before he is caught in Iran and uses this to get them back on the trail. Periodically Jamal tries to teach Enayatullah words in English, enough so that by the time they reach Turkey Enayat can dish out a few slanted sentences. Jamal bribes a border guard with Enayat’s walkman much to his chagrin. Jamal gets Enayat to buy him a big ice cream cone in Istanbul and they sit and enjoy it by the side of the road. They both play football with various groups of kids wherever they get the chance. Both boys become quite friendly with an Iranian couple and their small child who join them in being smuggled to the West. There are so many moments where you see a glimmer in their eyes, their recognition that their life could actually become better at the end of their journey, that when tragedy strikes you can’t help but think how unfair life is.

The film was utterly powerful and has made me think about many things. Primarily, the sheer desperation that a person can feel, that would compel them to undertake a journey fraught with danger and uncertainty in the hope of a better life. And then how different and cushioned our lives are that we know so little and react so minimally to atrocities and the plight of fellow human beings in other parts of the world. I cannot even imagine what life is like for refugees. Their camp looked clean and neat but they live under the brand of being outsiders stuck in an unending mire of joblessness and seemingly without any hope of a better life where they were. They never once consider any of the other European countries as a possibility, looking single-mindedly at London as their destination. They know they will probably never see many of their family members again and yet they leave cheerfully. How convinced they must be to believe that there is nothing worth staying for and how strong in body, mind and spirit to attempt this excruciating exercise. Their journey was horrific and you could often see them draw on inner strength and each other to keep going in the belief that what they were attempting would lead them to a better existence.

I honestly do not know what to think. This film has got my mind working overtime. Working in the development sector I have read my share of horror stories from around the world. I’ve also seen and heard about wonderful development and reconstruction programmes work their magic. Did they make the right decision? Was their life so hopeless? Was there no other path for their lives? And conversely how does a developed country react to asylum? How should they be reacting? How should the layman react to a young boy selling 2 wristbands for 1 Euro to make some money to help his journey along? What’s right and what’s wrong? Does each drop of our contribution, monetarily or in kind, really make up an ocean or just a small ineffectual pond? Is there any hope that this world will one day be a better place for everyone? So many questions and no good answers.

It was a heart wrenching watch. If you get the chance watch it – I guarantee it will make you thank your lucky stars for your health, your family, your security, your access to technology to watch it, a computer & the internet to blog about it.

1 comment:

  1. Very thought provoking.And disturbing too. Sometimes one feels guilty for being blessed with the basic necessities of life.And Thanx, 30, for making my day with your comment on my blog. I have not written a post for a long time, but I shall be putting one up any day now! Also visited "Plate by plate" and, coincidence, I've just started the process of making mango pickle---I was feeling very satisfied about it, and wanted to share that satisfaction---maybe another post on that!