In Another Life

 

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A vivid portrait of refugees and of the hopes that sustain them as they seek a new home.

 
In Another Life
  

It is a Syrian refugee named Adnan who, while living in Calais in the camp known as The Jungle, is heard to declare that in another life he was a teacher. Jason Wingard's deeply felt film portrays the life of immigrants in this location desperate to find a way of getting to England. Indeed, this is a film which, photographed in the real location, has been described as a blend of drama and documentary. However, to my mind that is misleading. Jason Wingard, writer as well as director, certainly adopts a documentary style of filming and some of his supporting players may not be actors, but essentially this is a fictional story played out by actors  - and that's so notwithstanding that the tale is one designed to be representative of the actual experiences of those caught up in this situation. Consequently, the film to which this piece is closest is Michael Winterbottom's In This World, which told of Afghans trying to reach London after American bombing of their own country had caused them to end up in a refugee camp in Pakistan. The fact that that film, so similar in theme to this one, was made as long ago as 2002 is a shocking reminder of just how long these tragic situations have lasted.

 

Jason Wingard's film has other qualities beyond its sincerity. The harsh atmosphere of its setting is conveyed through the photography for which the use of black and white 'Scope proves ideal. Furthermore, Andrew McKee's editing adds to the impact. The film starts in 2015 as it shows us Adnan's life in the camp where he finds companionship with a fellow refugee, Yousef. The main narrative that follows is concerned with these two men and with their attempts to find a way to cross the Channel, attempts that will see them conned and increasingly desperate yet ultimately bonded. Their rapport survives the fact that Yousef has a tendency to bolster his spirits by making false claims regarding money expected from his family and in doing so exasperates Adnan. Elie Haddad as Adnan and Yousef Hayyan Jubeh are admirably convincing in these two leading roles.

 

Although many nationalities are represented amongst those in The Jungle, most of the dialogue is spoken in English and on occasion the accents make it a challenge to catch every word (Winterbottom's film gained by using a range of languages with subtitles). More seriously, In Another Life works less well when it tries through the use of flashbacks to show how Adnan had left Syria with his wife Bana (Toyah Frantzen) in the hope that they could reach England together. It might have been best to insert this back story all in one go since that would fit in readily when Adnan meets a sympathetic British helper, the medical volunteer Jane (Elizabeth Bouckley), who expresses an interest in his recent history. But, instead, Wingard chooses to tell it in bits and pieces spread throughout the film: the date and location for each short episode is stated, but that doesn't prevent the film from becoming decidedly bitty. The sheer scope of Ai Weiwei's recent study of homeless immigrants, Human Flow, gave that film an impact much greater than that achieved by In Another Life. Nevertheless, this honourable film conveys all too well the way in which The Jungle offered an existence that made its inhabitants feel sub-human.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Elie Haddad, Toyah Frantzen, Yousef Hayyan Jubeh, Mudar Abbara, Ahmad Malas, Shahid Ahmed, Bhasker Patel, Elizabeth Bouckley.

 

Dir Jason Wingard, Pro Chris Bouckley, Rebecca Clare-Evans and Hannah Stevenson, Screenplay Jason Wingard, Ph Andrew Butler, Mike Staniforth and Martin Waine, Ed Andrew McKee, Pro Des Martin Butterworth, Music Dan Baboulene.

 
Wingarm-Wingarm.
84 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 24 January 2018. Cert. 15.