The desperation and perils of the migrant experience are crystalised in this spare survival thriller set somewhere in the forests on Europe’s southwestern borders. Clad in a dog-eared Mo Salah shirt, twentysomething Iraqi Kamal is marooned in the badlands between Turkey and Bulgaria when his group of refugees falls victim to a nighttime ambush by the authorities. Three days of nightmarish fear and discomfort await.
Haunting and narratively spare, Europa is a plea for humanity wrapped inside a gripping survival story. At a brisk 70 minutes, its only flaw is that there isn’t a bit more to it, but British-Libyan actor Adam Ali brings real nuance to the battered, shoeless, hunted figure of Kamal, despite rarely having anyone to play off. Stumbling over the body of a fellow migrant, he flicks from sorrow to the realisation that there’s a pair of sneakers up for grabs. There’s little time for sympathy with self-appointed ‘migrant hunters’ scouring the woods.
Haunting and narratively spare, Europa is a plea for humanity wrapped inside a gripping survival story
The idea that those displaced by war should have to undergo this Hunger Games-esque gauntlet of people traffickers and armed vigilantes for the chance of a better life should be conscious-pricking and unsettling – and it is. As director Haider Rashid’s opening captions remind us, this system is allowed to continue by those who purport to clamp down on it. In fact, there’s another layer of cruelty at work in this human blackmarket: corrupt officials who are comfortable with a few corpses if it earns them some extra cash.
In UK cinemas now.