Based on true events from the “Balkan Route”, Haider Rashid’s Europa is an intimate journey of survival that sees a young Iraqi refugee attempt to cross the treacherous border between Turkey and Bulgaria. We live the experience through Kamal (Adam Ali), seeing only what he sees while he embarks on this perilous journey, thus removing the periphery and closing the world around us like a snake slowly binding its prey. For Kamal, safety and salvation forever seem a million miles away, while the shouts of migrant hunters and border police persistently snap at his heels.
Jacopo Caramella’s handheld camera approach to the cinematography lurches the viewer into Kamal and his state of desperation, getting up close and personal with actor Ali and catching every minute expression of fear in his eyes. Scenic moments of serenity are sliced open by the chattering of helicopters up above, proving a constant reminder to Kamal that the migrant hunters are never too far away and making the film a visceral, unrelenting experience for the viewer.
Europa is an exhausting ride without a moment’s peace but could benefit from a longer run time, as 75 minutes does not nearly offer enough space for an emotional narrative to take full effect. The constant thrashing between Kamal’s desperate fleeing and any respite shattering into a million pieces is without a doubt exciting, but the credits roll too soon to thoroughly establish a beginning and end to Kamal’s journey. In the final shot, the conclusion is left ambiguous and you may be forgiven if you’re hungering for a little more structure.
With the world currently witnessing firsthand a conflict in Europe between Russia and Ukraine, one can only fear how many Ukrainian citizens have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed and now find themselves uprooted like the countless refugees that have come before them. Hopefully, none shall ever experience the terror and danger faced by those who have travelled the Balkan Route, but Rashid’s Europa acts as a poignant reminder that such brutal attempts at salvation do still take place and the rest of the world must remain awake to this.
Europa is released in select cinemas on 18th March 2022.
Watch the trailer for Europa here: