Director: Haider Rashid
Stars: Adam Ali, Svetlana Yancheva
Based on real accounts and mainly captured in severe, immediate close-ups with minimal dialogue, this gripping, harrowing and all-too timely picture charts a young Iraqi refugee's fraught journey on the 'Balkan route' to Europe. Introductory title cards spell out how migrants crossing from Turkey to Bulgaria are terrorised by law enforcement officials and self-appointed ‘Migrant Hunter’ civilian militia. A nerve-wracking opening scene filmed in near darkness, has young Iraqi Kamal (British Libyan actor Ali) and his fellow refugees swooped on by the authorities and bullets ring out while panic and confusion reigns. Later, a trafficker tells them he wants more money and a scuffle ensues, sending Kamal fleeing off into the woods. As well as the local migrant hunters who roam the beautiful Bulgarian forest as if on an animal-hunting exhibition, Ali also encounter a terrified young woman (Yancheva) who offers him a lift, but then panics after hearing news of the war on the radio. With its disorienting camerawork that keeps an intense focus on the protagonist, and his immediate surroundings out of focus (communicating Ali’s panicked and terrified state), the film feels redolent of harrowing Holocaust drama ‘Son of Saul’ and it boasts a similarly unsettling sound design. The running time is slight, at just over seventy minutes, but that may be a blessing.