EIFF 2021: Europa

An Iraqi refugee finds himself the target of armed migrant hunters in this powerful survival thriller

Film Review by Rafaela Sales Ross | 24 Aug 2021
  • Europa
Film title: Europa
Director: Haider Rashid
Starring: Adam Ali, Svetlana Yancheva, Pietro Ciciriello, Gassid Mohammed

Europa follows young migrant Kamal (Adam Ali) as he attempts to enter Europe by foot after fleeing Iraq. The gruelling journey reaches a dangerous apex on the infamous Balkan route, where Kamal manages to escape the border police just to find himself the target of armed migrant hunters.

Executed to masterful precision at just 75 minutes, Europa is an ode to the narrative potential of detail. The camera never leaves Kamal as he makes his way through the unknown woods, sweat mixing with tears mixing with blood. Complementing the claustrophobic cinematography is a pristine use of sound design, a cacophony of loud breathing that starts as an anxiety-inducing aid but ultimately provides a twisted sense of comfort: if we can hear breathing, there is still hope.

Rashid takes the audience to the darkest pits of humanity, with hatred established as the norm in this hellish circle of cruelty. People here are entirely void of identity, mere vessels to prejudice-fuelled anger: compassion is a commodity as scarce as gold. Denied a face and a name, the bigots are made to feel like they could be anyone – a notion as terrifying as it is familiar.

In a year where Ben Sharrock’s dramedy Limbo won over audiences around the world through its tender yet heartwrenching portrayal of the refugee crisis, writer-director Haider Rashid takes the opposite route by building an excruciating thriller that refuses to offer any contemplative respite. Europa might have an ambiguous ending but make no mistake, its message is very clear.

Europa received its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival; UK release details TBA