With the plight of refugees and migrants back in the news, Haider Rashid's Europa is a timely release and a brutal reminder of the trials that thousands daily face as they try to escape war and persecution.
Set on the Turkish-Bulgarian border region, Europa is the story of Iraqi youth Kamal (Adam Ali) and his attempt to escape across the border. After the title cards explain the situation of people crossing the Bulgarian border, such as human traffickers, corrupt cops and officials, plus the ever-present threat of ultranationalist militia mobs, it shows the failed attempt of Kamal's group to make it across the border. In the confusion, Kamal slips free of the police and enters the forests, where he begins a savage struggle to survive against the elements and gangs pushing him beyond the brink.
Europa is not an enjoyable film to watch. And that's the point. It's not a film meant to make the viewer feel uplifted. It is a bleak, emotionally draining film that generates no enjoyment from makes Europa a brilliant movie. It is intended to show the nightmare migrants and refugees go through, brought together from accounts of those lucky enough to make it safe.
Rashid employs a constant Medium Close Up Shot, the technical term for the top of the chest and head, with a wide-angle lens to capture his story. Consistent use of a single type of shot, with little to no change, would typically get boring and develop a repetitive rhythm that the film can't build on. But in Europa, it forces us to share in Kamal's pain, confusion, and fear. There is nowhere to hide our eyes from what he's going through. It's almost like a point of view shot, and Rashid makes the viewer experience the horrors.
A minimalist film, there is little dialogue; everything is told through body language and the above mention camera work. There is little of a plot, more of a premise. That would be an issue in a longer film, but with the aforementioned single style cinematography, Rashid makes it work. A plot with the standard call to action, midpoint, and climax would make it loose something such as its sense of realism, helplessness, and fear of the unknown, which underlines so much of this film.
A tragic portrayal of those fleeing for their lives, Europa puts a human face on the suffering of thousands.
Europa is in cinemas now