“Life in the jungle is a constant struggle for survival” – Aaimr (Short Film Review)

Films that deal with hot button, or divisive, issues usually end up stumbling about, particularly those films that deal with a group of people. In many cases it puts them on higher and higher pedestals until a strange form of dehumanisation occurs; they stop being a Person and are reduced to a Cause, a two dimensional cut out of a human. Films dealing with social issues have to walk a fine line and I honestly believe that short films are able to do it better. Aamir (2017) is the story of a 13 year old boy that has found himself in the Calais Jungle, the refugee shanty town in northern France.

Waking up one night to a raid on his family’s home in Mosul, Kurd Aamir (Alan Asaad) sees his father gunned down by unknown militants. With little hope, he and his mother (Samia Rida) find a people smuggler to take them out of the city, but during the confusion Aamir and his mother are separated. Alone, Aamir’s journey becomes a quick montage of hiding in the back of lorries, being chased by police dogs, before being arrested in France and dumped in the Jungle. Alone, with neither food, shelter nor money, Aamir’s only hope rests with Kaitlyn (Jasmine Blackborow), a well-meaning but over stretched English volunteer.

When I started watching Aamir I honestly thought it was going to descend into a White Saviour narrative with Kaitlyn rescuing him from his limbo existence in the Jungle. While not based on an actual persons story, it does take the experience of many trapped in the camp and does it’s best to show life there; as such it is not an upbeat film. More to the point it does not depict those living there as cardboard cut outs; they’re real people, sometimes broken, sometimes able to hold it together for another day. Volunteers are well meaning but can only do so much; refugees are struggling under fear and despair were the simple task of gaining a door for their shack becomes a breaking point that leads them down dark paths.

There is a broken rhythm to the shots and edit which blurs hours and days together until, save for a few night scenes, there is no concept of time, just existing. Blended with a dull, almost washed out colour palette and with little dialogue, we a given a visual representation of what it is like to survive in the Jungle; a monotonous, empty life of living day to day in fear and depression.

It is a bleak film, one that would have fallen apart if it had have been a feature. I’m not saying that a feature film would not be able to capture the same pain and emotion, the same realistic characters, but that Aamir has paced itself well to bring its story across. Strong in its production and characterisation, Aamir does not make easy, or even enjoyable, watching but it does make important and poignant viewing.

Dir: Vika Evdokimenko
Scr: Vika Evdokimenko, Oliver Shuster
Cast: Alan Asaad, Jasmine Blackborow, Samia Rida
Prd: Vika Evdokimenko, Emma Stone
DOP: Robbie Ryan
Music: Michal Jacaszek
Country: UK
Year: 2017
Runtime: 16 minutes