When a child is born of love but the love is forbidden, the family is faced with a desperate struggle for safety. “We made something forbidden into something legal,” explains Leila, who has fled an unhappy marriage with a man suffering from drug addiction to be with her partner, Sahand, and their four-year-old son, Mani. Written and directed by Eva Mulvad, alongside Morten Ranmar, Lea Blob and Henrik Grunnet, real-life story Love Child reveals the impossibility of a legal, safe route as an option for refugees fleeing conflict and insecurity.
Spanning six years as Leila and Sahand anxiously await the result of their case with UNHCR, the film is a warm and loving portrayal of a family’s quest for a “normal” life. Mobile phone footage recorded by Sahand is commendably integrated with traditional camerawork to further emphasise the production’s real commitment to telling the story of the family’s experience of the politics of migration.
This film complicates the narrative of migration by bringing the “other” into sharp focus. However, it falls short in its depoliticised, limited, and erroneous depiction of Turkey as a welcoming place for refugees, especially considering that the subject of the film is a small, highly educated family. The focus on a single family’s struggle against devastating border politics has the potential to challenge the sensationalist discourse of the refugee crisis, but the subtle ways in which a highly politicised situation is painted through the universal narratives of love and the pursuit of normality does risk trivialising a deeply complicated and propagandised issue.
Love Child captures the trauma of exile always overshadowed by the necessity of waiting, even as hope continues to linger in the distance. Sahand hits the refresh button on the UNHCR page; Leila endeavours to hold everything together in Turkey and with the family she left behind in Iran; Mani grows up to accept a father whom he had been led to believe was his uncle. Meanwhile time drags.
Love Child is released in select cinemas on 6th November 2020.
Watch the trailer for Love Child here: