In Another Life brings characters to life who are not defined by their refugee status, presenting a beautifully shot feature film about life in the Calais jungle and how Syrian Adnan came to be there.
Adnan (played fantastically by Edie Haddad) is a lovable realist, who proclaims at the start of the film, ‘in another life I was a teacher, now I’m a refugee’. He is a broad, bearded, Syrian refugee whose only aim is to get into England no matter what, exactly what the Daily Mail suggests we should hate. But Adnan is impossible to hate, and as the story develops we learn of his wife Bana (the also fantastic Toyah Frantzen) and how they were split in their escape from war-torn Syria. As Adnan proclaims, ‘as long as I have legs I will keep trying’ (to cross the border to England), and I can’t help but will him on. It’s difficult not to root for the protagonist and his friends, and I challenge Nigel Farage himself to try to watch the film without a glimmer of some sort of emotion.
In Another Life is special in its portrayal of the struggle of being a refugee, director Jason Wingard doing well to bring the Syrian voice to the forefront while Westernising the film enough to make it easy to consume for those who need to see it. The film is almost wholly in English, with few subtitles, allowing the film to be within a European gaze but without compromising the integrity of it. The topic of the film is also important, bringing a narrative journey for a subject that we see most typically in documentary form, allowing for the building of Adnan’s life outside of the descriptor of ‘refugee’. It is striking in this respect, allowing several character’s identity to form to show there is not one conglomerate type but rather individuals. After being subjected to the media’s portrayal of the one-size-fits-all Syrian refugee, it is refreshing to watch a film that gives colour and personality to all within it.
there is something about In Another Life that brings humanity to what otherwise so easily slips into just another statistic
Wingard’s decision to make the film black and white also allows us to see the people behind the struggle, taking away some of the more graphic elements like blood. Despite our increasing awareness of the refugee crisis, there is something about In Another Life that brings humanity to what otherwise so easily becomes just another statistic. The protagonist was taken advantage of both by other refugees as well as Europeans, and there are moments of immense hurt and shame that I couldn’t not feel. The film so emotively brings these scenes to life, showing the degradation that is being committed but without falling into the trap of prolonging that. The characters are proud, they should not be defined by the category of refugee.
The film ends as it begins, with Adnan saying that, ‘in another life I was a teacher, now I’m a refugee’. But the film shows us that he is not just a refugee, but a living, breathing human being.
Image: Jason Wingard