"In This World" is a change of pace and subject for British director Michael Winterbottom after his recent work "24 Hour Party People" and "The Claim". This intimate, yet hard-hitting, response to the asylum controversy follows two Afghan teenagers as they escape from the Shamshatoo refugee camp in Pakistan, along the smugglers' route known as The Silk Road.
Travelling through Iran, Turkey, Italy, and France, Jamal and his cousin Enayatullah embark on a desperate journey to freedom. 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.
Shot on digital video, "In This World" is styled as a fictional documentary, using voiceover narration and real refugees and locations (including the now infamous Sangatte camp). The predominantly improvised script creates a powerful piece of guerrilla filmmaking.
Building on two engrossing performances from the non-professional leads, and with a striking sense of the psychological effects of displacement and loss that these boys suffer, "In This World" challenges knee-jerk reactions to the asylum debate by questioning the neat bureaucratic distinctions between economic migrants and political refugees.
Although it was originally conceived as a response to the UK's on-going asylum debate, the events of September 11th (which occurred while the film was still in preproduction) have given it an additional resonance.
More than a response to the asylum issue, it's also a staggeringly persuasive reminder that the West's duty to the people of Afghanistan is far from over.
As Winterbottom points out, we spent $7.9 billion bombing the Taliban regime. The question remains - how much do we owe those whose lives were ruined as a result?
A stark, intelligent, and utterly essential contribution to the asylum debate.
In Pashtu and Farsi with English subtitles