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FILM OF THE WEEK Hostages to the hostile environment

Poignant, yet shot through with deadpan comedy, Limbo is a telling account of the harsh experiences of asylum-seekers, says MARIA DUARTE

Limbo (PG)
Directed by Ben Sharrock

 

AS asylum-seekers and refugees continue to be demonised in the media, Ben Sharrock’s offbeat but inspired debut feature looks beyond the headlines to humanise the refugee crisis by concentrating on the individual experience of a Syrian asylum-seeker.

Set on a remote Scottish island, the film follows young musician Omar (an impressive Amir el-Masry) and his three housemates as they await the results of their asylum claims.

In the meantime, when he isn’t making phone calls to his parents who fled to Turkey, Omar attends surreal and wholly misjudged “cultural awareness” classes with the others, binge watches a box-set of Friends and deals with the hostile and racist locals who see him as a terrorist and a rapist.

Scottish writer-director Sharrock’s wry yet poignant deadpan comedy drama examines what it means to be labelled a refugee and the importance of one’s identity and the loss of it as seen through the haunting eyes of the grieving Omar.

Shy and introverted, he explores the island with his oud in tow as he struggles with his decision to leave his country and his family in search of a better future instead of fighting in the war like his brother Nabil (Kais Nashif).

Stylistically reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s work, Sharrock looks at the refugee crisis through an absurdist lens and offers a fresh and imaginative perspective on the issue, driven home by stunning performances all round.

You can’t help but become invested in Omar and his housemates as they await their outcome courtesy of the Royal Mail.

As the Home Secretary Priti Patel is reportedly planning to send asylum-seekers to offshore centres, this captivating satire reminds us how they are just ordinary people with hopes and dreams like everyone else and not the devil incarnate.

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