- Emma Simmonds
- 3 November 2020
Gripping documentary highlighting the plight of a family of Iranian asylum seekers
Something that so many take for granted is desperately fought for in this intimate documentary following an Iranian family who simply want to stay together and settle somewhere safe. If brilliant British horror His House recently turned the experience of seeking asylum into a frightening fantasy, here the ordeal remains heartbreakingly real as a torturous limbo is relayed with a palpable sense of what's at stake.
Trapped in an abusive and unconsummated marriage to an addict, Leila has an affair with Sahand which results in a pregnancy. Although she initially convinces her husband that the child is his, eventually Leila and Sahand decide to flee Iran so that they may raise the boy, Mani, together. Given their adultery, both of them face the death penalty should they stay. They make it as far as Turkey where they must wait for their asylum application to be processed.
Shot over five years, the filmmakers have incredible access to this evolving story, with writer-director Eva Mulvad (and co-directors Lea Glob and Morten Ranmar) creating edge-of-your-seat drama out of a bureaucratic nightmare. Unlike the recent For Sama, which the film superficially resembles in its focus on a couple with a young child, the threat remains remote but still feels ever-present.
The couple endlessly check for updates on their cases, and dare to dream about what their lives could be, while the changing political landscape throws them curveballs, including an influx of refugees from Syria, which overwhelm the system, and Trump's travel ban. Their emotional journey is sensitively captured, with the filmmakers at hand as they tentatively establish themselves as a family, and later as tempers flare and hope is lost and re-found.
There are beautiful, recognisable moments: the giddy thrill of purchasing a bike, stones being flung into the sea, and attempting to celebrate birthdays as best they can. Time is marked in changing hairstyles and a boy growing up. It can be a hard film to watch as you become incredibly invested in the family's plight, but it's gentle and humane rather than punishing. And, particularly in the context of Britain's 'hostile environment', it's important to be reminded of the human beings behind the headlines.
Available to watch via virtual cinemas and on demand from Fri 6 Nov. View the full list of participating cinemas.