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Film Review: Europa
by Marinell Haegelin

Haider Rashid, Italy | Iraq | Kuwait 2021 

As the number of immigrants increased dramatically the past decades, the most affluent nations have been the meanest providing aid and/or action. Many think of refugees in the abstract, since reading about their plight is quite different from living it. Co-writer-director Haider Rashid creates precisely that situation for audiences to experience; as the film begins, static black cards set up background information about criminal organizations, border police and government officials oftentimes being in cahoots doling out abuse/intimidation to immigrants in Europe. Add to that mix local “migrant hunter” nationalists. By simply choosing to want a better life, for countless people that path to freedom’s precarious, deadly.

It’s a pitch-dark night; the people smuggler’s (Mohamed Zouaoui) finishing business when complete mayhem breaks out; those not shot scatter in terror. Alongside Kamal (compelling performance from Lebanese-British actor-director Adam Ali) we flee into the unknown. The expansive forest and unfamiliar landscape are disorientating; Kamal dodges sporadic shouts, shots; crippled by fear, perched on a tree branch he watches vigilantes underneath checking their prey. Abandoned on the Turkish-Bulgarian border, freedom’s within reach, but police and mercenaries on the hunt ceaselessly roam about. Always vigilant, constantly alert for anything edible. For three days, three nights until, famished, Kamal’s guard is lowered. He ends up at a stranger’s mercy. Exhausted, we hold out breath. What’s the moral compass here?

Seventy-two minutes seem a lifetime as Jacopo Caramella’s ingenious cinematography appropriately, and predominantly within arm’s distance hugs Kamal’s face; Sonia Giannetto (co-writer) and Haider Rashid’s brilliant editing add to the intensity. Kudos to Gabriele Fasano (sound effects editor), Giandomenico Petillo (sound mixer) and Rashid (sound design), and Naseir Shamma’s discerning music.

EUROPA proves a shrewd concept and a great actor can turn a straightforward script into a tense psychological contact with the unconscionable that’s contrasted with decent behavior.