Review: Along the Way
- The acting by Afghan refugees Malihe and Nahid feels honest and vulnerable, as they risk it all to slip through the cracks of “fortress Europe” in Mijke de Jong’s film
Although most viewers will probably never know what it’s like to trudge along the refugee trail from Afghanistan to the Netherlands, Mijke de Jong’s Along the Way allows us to catch a glimpse of the hardships that come with it. “Authenticity” is a keyword in how the film manages to transport us to this barren arena, thanks to the roles of twins Malihe and Nahid Rezaie, who basically play themselves. Their acting feels honest and vulnerable, as they risk it all to slip through the cracks of “fortress Europe”. Along the Way is showing in the fiction competition of the 14th Movies that Matter Festival, taking place in the Dutch city of The Hague.
The film’s authentic feel is also heightened thanks to the documentary-style opening, which contains footage of main characters Zahra and Fatima’s improvised film studio in the Moria refugee camp. We soon learn that they have been on the run for the last five years, in search of a better life in the Netherlands. “I don’t know what to say,” one of them stutters, as the other pushes her in front of their camera. And it’s understandable. This story cannot be told using mere words; rather, it is something that has to be felt cinematically. Indeed, the lack of words underlines their strong ambitions: there is no doubt that they want to flourish as filmmakers, and they do indeed have a story to tell.
Rugged landscapes and confused groups of refugees evoke a strong sense of being lost straight away. Smugglers who command them to hold their breath, losing their loved ones, hiding from police and gunshots... These are the harsh circumstances in which we witness our protagonists. At some point, they reach Turkey, where they befriend Rahim, a 16-year-old working for a local trafficker in Istanbul. Here they are able to work a little and save up for the crossing to Lesbos, or the “sea game”, as they call it. Slowly, they are dragged into the shady business of trafficking and drugs, ratcheting up the pressure not only on their own safety, but also on their symbiotic relationship as twin sisters.
De Jong met Malihe and Nahid in Moria while teaching film through an NGO, where they interviewed other female refugees who ended up in the Moria camp. These interviews are juxtaposed with the scenes of the fictional story of their characters. The fact that all characters are actual refugees who made the trip, and who are still waiting around the fringes of Europe, means that the film, which classifies as fiction, flirts with the realm of documentary. The staged scenes then somehow come across as their own recollections. It comes as no surprise that Malihe and Nahid helped write the script. Who better to guide us through this impressive story, taking us way beyond the rhetoric we usually hear on such topics?
Along the Way was produced by Dutch outfit BALDR Film in co-production with broadcasters VPRO and Human, as well as Greece’s Heretic Films.
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