Aamir is a short film about a boy who has fled his home and been separated from his family only to be stranded alone in one of Europe’s unofficial refugee camps.
For most, the city of Calais in Northern France is famous for its view of the Strait of Dover, the narrowest stretch of water between it and England, where on a clear day one can even see the white cliffs on the horizon, which for centuries has served as the gateway for trade and travel. For many others though, since the late 1990s, it has been home for illegal immigrants and refugees, thousands upon thousands who have squatted on unoccupied lands in “jungle” camps, escaping untold horrors and existing in deplorable conditions in hopes of gaining passage across the English Channel.
Most recently, from early 2015 to its ‘official’ closure in late 2016, it gained international attention during the migrant crisis that saw the population grow to its largest, with many being unattended children. It’s here where director Vika Evdokimenko sets her story, focusing on 13-year-old Aamir (Alan Asaad), a boy barely escaping his home of Mosul, Iraq, separated from his mother and left with nearly no provisions to survive, ending up huddled in an abandoned shelter, a makeshift room of wooden pallets, a few beams of lumber and torn plastic. His most valuable possession is an old watch thrust in his hands by his weeping mother moments before she is carried away.
Lost among the crowds, he meets a young woman named Kaitlyn (Jasmine Blackborow), a British volunteer who is struggling with only a handful of others to keep the tents and huts upright and the desperate inhabitants safe. It’s a thankless job and she has almost no time to offer the boy, but promises him at least a door, even if it’s one made of little hope. Left mostly to his own devices, Aamir finds his new home one full of darkness and with no one to trust.
Based on real events and experiences Evdokimenko and her crew had while touring the camp (they filmed on location), the story is representative of many unattended children whose fates have often been left unknown. Co-produced by Emma Stone, the 15-minute film is harrowing, with Evdokimenko using jarring imagery at the start to tell Aamir’s story, her economy of visuals and dialogue remarkably effective. She keeps the narrative always from Aamir’s point of view, leaving purposeful gaps of knowledge in the experience so that it feels as disorienting to us as it surely is to him. Here is a boy stripped of everything and facing a disturbing future, one that is counted by minutes rather than years. Evdokimenko captures with heartbreaking detail what the day in the life of a child in the jungle is like and Asaad effortlessly draws us into this nightmare, his performance not only moving, but unsettling.
Nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Short Film, this provocative film raising questions and offers few answers, its final frames distressing and telling of a time and place where we might pause to reflect on the fortune of our own lives. It’s a beautiful, terrifying experience. Still in it’s festival run, Aamir will surely continue to gain critical support and increase awareness. The BAFTA’s will be held on 18th February at the Royal Albert Hall.
Movie description: Aamir is a short film about a boy who has fled his home and been separated from his family only to be stranded alone in one of Europe's unofficial refugee camps.
Director(s): Vika Evdokimenko
Actor(s): Alan Asaad, Jasmine Blackborow, Samia Rida
Genre: Short Film, Drama