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In This World

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/20/04 10:16:28

"What lengths people will go to in order to enjoy what we don't."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Imagine your life if fate had been different. Imagine that your parents had met in Uzbekistan or Guam or Somalia, and that you'd been born in one of those places instead of here. Imagine you grew up hungry, dirty, and with no means of getting yourself out. Imagine that, on the other side of the world, people were being born in freedom, with all the mod cons, all the food they could stomach, all the freedom of choice imaginable to do what they want, where they want. What would YOU do to leave poverty and get a shot at some of that? If your answer was "just about anything," me too.

In This World is the story of a young Afghan boy from a refugee camp in Peshawar, Jamal Udin Torabi. Jamal's family wants him to grow up in the first world, so they gather all the relatives they can find, pool their money, and pay a 'snakehead' to ferry the kid across land and sea to Great Britain. To make sure young Jamal has a shot atmaking his journey, they also pay to have his older brother go along. Sounds perilous enough, but what makes this story all the more incredible is that it is happening right before your eyes. The trip, the participants, the journey is all real.

How this can be when there's a camera following the kids at all times is beyond me. Clearly some of the film is performed and some is not, but the fact that it was made as Jamal was making his journey to the other side gives the proceedings here an air of importance that takes it a few steps above the level of interest it might have otherwise enjoyed.

Michael Winterbottom's film is deeply disturbing, not just because little Jamal and his brother go through hell on earth navigating their way through checkpoints, safehouses, roadblocks and robberies, but because you're watching the film from relative comfort, knowing that all of this is happening because this kid wants to be sitting next to you.

We wake up in the morning every day and the first thing we do is start complaining. The coffee is too hot, the eggs are cold, that shirt needs ironing, the car won't start... but how often do we look around and say to ourselves "there are millions of people who would give a kidney to have these problems. Indeed, they're probably in the act of doing so as I sit here bitching about how bad my life is."

In This World is an interesting film, but put into perspective by the reality of the piece, it's an incredible filmgoing event. It may not make your top ten list of the year, but it will definitely cause you to stop, consider and appreciate your life far more than you did yesterday.

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