‘We Lost Touch With Empathy’: Iraqi Oscar Entry Exposes Migrant Tragedy On Europe’s Doorstep


After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Haider Rashid’s migrant thriller “Europa” has been selected as Iraq’s contender for best international feature film at the upcoming Academy Awards. FRANCE 24 spoke to the Italian-Iraqi director about the humanitarian crisis at Europe’s borders and his hopes of representing Iraq at the Oscars.

A timely and chilling thriller, “Europa” offers a vivid portrayal of the ordeal experienced by migrants desperate to enter Fortress Europe. Co-financed by the Iraqi and Italian culture ministries, among other supporters, it is the latest migrant-themed work by Rashid, whose father was forced to flee Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the late ‘70s, taking the very Balkan Route that is the focus of his film.  

“Europa” is informed by first-person accounts of migrants who undertook the perilous journey and extensive interviews with NGO workers, human rights lawyers and public officials. It follows a young Iraqi migrant named Kamal as he attempts to dodge brutal border guards and deadly migrant-hunters at the Bulgarian border with Turkey.

The film’s probing, handheld camera scours Kamal’s bruised and exhausted body with relentless close-ups as he runs, leaps, crawls and scurries up trees in a frantic race for survival. The young migrant is played with mesmerising intensity by Adam Ali, a British actor of Libyan origin with a slender build and a face from silent movies.

“Europa” has appeared at film festivals across Europe since its international premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes. FRANCE 24 spoke to its director ahead of the film’s Arab premiere at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah next week and its release in Iraqi cinemas on December 10.



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