In This World – A Film Review

It’s not very often that a certain film compels me enough to write a review on it. And thanks to my beloved Abaseen, I was very, very fortunate to watch “In This World” over the holidays, and I have to say that the film moved me in ways that are ineffable! And I know this film will haunt me for many days, years, and decades to come. It’s sad that it is only now that I discovered this gem; else this film was released almost a decade ago, in 2002. I don’t even know how long I’ve been waiting for a film like this; a film that not only has pure Pashto dialogue in it (besides English, of course), but also covers a theme that was and still is very eminent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan.

Set in documentary style, the film follows two young Pakhtun refugees, Jamal and his older cousin Enayat, as they travel by land from a dusty camp (Shamshatoo Refugee Camp), which is 25 km Southwest of Peshawar, to London.  Jamal, the younger cousin, is depicted as shrewd and indomitable, whose advantage over his older cousin is his ability to communicate in English. Enayat, on the other hand, is more simple and kind-natured, who dreams of going to London in hopes of a better life than the one he was used to at Shamshatoo camp. I have to say that I, especially, loved their charming brotherly relationship; especially the way Jamal would relieve the boredom and anxiety of their otherwise difficult and painful journey with jokes and silly stories.

Yet, Jamal’s shrewdness, paired with his cousin’s gentleness and reserve, only emphasized their vulnerability. The world they navigate through is not only terrifying in its complexity, but very dangerous as well. Thus, their fates are entrusted to a network of traffickers and fixers who move them from one point to the next across the harsh landscapes of Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. They ride in a series of pickup trucks, sometimes hidden among crates of oranges, until they reach Istanbul, where they are loaded into a shipping container, along with other desperate souls hoping for a safe passage into Europe. And the part that shattered me the most is the way they both suffer physically and emotionally, which eventually costs one of them their life. (I will not mention who, for it might spoil the film for those readers who’d want to watch it.)

Furthermore, I feel this film is very imperative, especially for those Pakhtuns (as well as non-Pakhtuns) that live abroad and are unaware of the turmoil and suffering that a plethora of Pakhtun refugees endure, in order to escape their horrid realities. And Jamal and Enayat are key persons in representing this very global crisis of human trafficking and displacement that is especially momentous in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Afghanistan.

It is no surprise that nearly one million people a year try to smuggle themselves away from war and destitution into happier, more prosperous countries. And while I understand that everyone deserves a promising life that is filled with happiness, why should they have to suffer in order to attain that “Utopia”? I guess as heart-breaking as this may sound, those who are less fortunate have no choice but to pay a hefty price for their emancipation; a price that costs them their very own lives!

Therefore, I found it very, very hard not to be deeply affected as well as incensed by this film. It is a film that screams realism in every single scene; in every single facet; in every single action; and in every single encounter. It is a film that must be watched and fathomed, again and again. And it is a film that not only opens our eyes to the brutal reality that these refugees endure, but it also sheds light on the goodness and generosity of the few people that they encounter on their journey as well.

The world may be cruel, yes, but thankfully there still dwells goodness in some.

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