The alternative film review
directed and co-written by Jonas Poher Rasmussen
This is a unique feature film about an all-too-familiar occurrence. At its core are audio-taped interviews with a one-time refugee from Kabul about his experiences and their long-term effects. Rasmussen has added simply drawn, multi-viewpoint, vivid animation, along with snippets of well-chosen film footage that give the historical context.
Amin Nawabi, a friend of the director from secondary school in Denmark, escaped as a child from Afghanistan in 1996. The film opens with his free-and-easy, exuberant early years as the youngest child and focus of his family’s attention. But we discover that his oldest brother left the country to escape service in the army, and the police had arrested his father, who’s imprisoned, then ‘disappears’. When the Taliban take over Kabul, Amin flees with his mother and siblings on one of the last flights out
Their brother, now an office cleaner in Sweden, meets them in Moscow, rents a room for them and sends them what money he can. They can’t work, and when their tourist visas expire, they risk arrest and deportation should they go outside. The police harass and rob them. Their hope is to find a new home and build a new life in Sweden. Their only way to get there is to pay people traffickers.
Amin’s voice, his hard-to-tell narration and the contemporary news footage, give the film a powerful authenticity. It gets the stasis of limbo and the deathly danger of crossing guarded borders – on land, in a small leaky boat, in a locked container on a cargo ship. It’s brilliant on commitment, fellowship and the refugees ‘otherness’ in exile. And, bringing the story up to date, the ongoing effect on Amin and his husband in Copenhagen.
directed and co-written by Fred Bailiff
Audrey doesn’t show her feelings but always speaks her mind, rarely smiles, but watches people unflinchingly. For two years, ever since her parents died in a car crash, she’s lived in a children’s home with other teenagers. One night, after a game of truth or dare, she ends up in bed with a much younger boy. A student intern hears them and calls the police, who arrest Audrey and take her away. Her equally vocal friend Novinha defends her, attacks the intern, and one consequence is that the home becomes a place for girls only.
‘La Mif’ means ‘the fam’ – slang for ‘family’. It’s how the teenage girls, all separated from their birth families, describe themselves. They inevitably argue and scrap, but they care for each other, are loyal, and look out for each other.
Writer-director Bailiff worked in social care in Geneva, made a couple of documentaries, then spent two years workshopping this with children’s home residents and staff, and a sprinkling of professional actors. The beautiful Claudia Grob has a key role as Lora, the kind-hearted, dedicated, care-worn manager of the home who has her own abiding sense of loss. It’s her continually changing replacement family too.
The film focuses on seven of the girls in turn, capturing the desperation of their circumstances and their emotional insecurity. When Novinha goes home for a weekend, her mother leaves as she arrives. Lora has to tell another, just 18, that her application for residency has failed and so, as she faces deportation, she might consider running away. It’s informative, involving, wrenching, and raw.