The human face of asylum

GMT 17:00 Monday ,23 June 2014

 Migrant Voice - The human face of asylum


If 'Leave To Remain' generates public understanding and sympathy for the lives of the youngsters who seek asylum here every year, it will have done a good job. Leave To Remain It’s no ordinary feature. Yes, it’s a funny, dramatic, heart-warming tale of the adventures of three unaccompanied asylum-seekers in a shelter for teenagers: two Afghans, Omar and Abdul (whose connection is gradually revealed) and a Guinean, Zizidi. Topically, given the current publicity around female genital mutilation, Zizidi was circumcised at the age of 12 and has suffered sexual abuse, a miscarriage and beatings. Yet her sense of hope keeps bubbling up. But director Bruce Goodison and colleagues have done more than make a film: for two years they have been running film workshops and providing training for teenagers.  With the support of film industry mentors, 60 unaccompanied minors have graduated from their Summer Film Academy. The young performers in the film are supported by some seasoned actors, and it’s put together with skill, exuberance and humour, plus an eye for the occasional telling detail of an asylum system designed to deter rather than welcome. What makes Leave To Remain different from several other current films that have taken on this subject is that it’s unashamedly entertaining: it’s a story with interesting characters told with pace, drama and emotion. It gives asylum a human face. Despite the good intentions, I was a little underwhelmed. It feels too close to the TV stereotype of Mind Your Language, a school for foreigners learning English that was screened in Britain in the 1970s and ‘80s and sold around the world. It’s zippy and in your face – young audiences may like it a lot – but feels slightly cartoonish.  The  sub-plot on the relationship of the two Afghan boys is intriguing, but it’s not matched by the other stories. The film will be shown at the East End Film Festival in London on 19 June;  the Nottingham Broadway cinema, 20 June; the Phoenix Leicester from 20 June; Clapham Cinemahouse and Norwich Cinema City, 23 June; Floating Cinema East London, 27 June; the MAC Birmingham, 28 June; Screen Saffron Waldron, 14 July, Phoenix Leicester, 25 August. Screening details


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