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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 12:24 GMT
Winterbottom's quest to show modern migration
A scene from In This World
In This World tackles the plight of modern-day asylum seekers

Michael Winterbottom swapped the Manchester nightlife of 24 Hour Party People for the rigours of asylum seekers' dangerous journeys to the West for his new film In This World. And he found life imitating art at the end of it.

Two years ago, British director Michael Winterbottom looked back at one of the most momentous mass immigrations in human history, the American goldrush, in his film The Claim.

Now he is tackling one of the modern age's most controversial migrations - the journey that takes economic and political asylum-seekers from central Asia to England.

Michael Winterbottom, director of In This World
Michael Winterbottom: film took him from Pakistan to Britain
In This World is Winterbottom's attempt to find a human story amidst the furore created by the asylum debate.

It comes at the same tiome as Stephen Frears has documented the plight of immigrant workers in London in the film Dirty Pretty Things.

The film is a world away from Winterbottom's last film, the Madchester biopic 24 Hour Party People.

The new film traces the journey made by two young Afghani boys, Jamal and Enayatullah, living in a refugee camp in Pakistan.

Enayatullah's family want to send him to Britain, but he can't speak English; so his cousin Jamal is sent with him.

Extraordinary

The film traces their journey across Iran, Turkey and into Europe, and their treatment at the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers.

Winterbottom says he became interested in the subject after 58 Chinese immigrants found dead in Dover in 2000. They had asphyxiated in the back of a truck trailer.

"I was reading a lot about how they got there and how the journeys work, and that was the first thing that interested me," Winterbottom says.

"I suppose it's not doing anything that the papers haven't done already, but the more you can remind people of it the better.

"I hope when you watch this film you think 'our asylum policies are too restrictive'.

"I hope it will make people feel that the people that get here have made extraordinary efforts and we should welcome them.

Digital

"People are making journeys to Europe that are epic in scale, are incredibly fraught in danger and cost them a fortune, they're risking their lives and leaving their friends, their culture, their family."

In this world
Much of the dialogue was improvised
Winterbottom, who had shot 24 Hour Party People on digital video, decided to use the same technique for his new film. But it was there the similarities ended.

He and writer Tony Grisoni embarked on a journey from camps at Peshawar to retrace the journey asylum seekers make every day, hidden in lorries or travelling on false documents.

They would film as much as possible, then return to cast actors and film the movie proper.

They arrived in Peshawar, western Pakistan, at the tail end of the post-11 September bombing campaign in Afghanistan. It was a tense time.

Improvised

"We arrived the day after Robert Fisk had been beaten up in Quetta," Winterbottom says. "When we went out filming it was just after the journalist Daniel Pearl had been kidnapped.

"But when we went out and met people they were very friendly, though they were understandably hostile to what was happening in Afghanistan."

The film-makers cast novices for the picture - the teenage actor playing Enayatullah couldn't speak English, the youngster playing Jamal could.
In This World
The film captures the epic scale of the journey asylum seekers take

Much of the film's dialogue was improvised along the way.

Winterbottom's best memory was visiting Iran after being in Pakistan.

"Iran it was much more developed, a much more sophisticated culture, much more organised.

"Everyone we met was interested in the West and with integrating with it, and they were frustrated that 11 September had damaged Iran's relationship."

Even after the film was finished, Winterbottom had surprises in store.

After flying the actor who played Jamal, Jamal Udin Torabi, back to his family in Pakistan, he found the teenager had made the journey again - and was seeking asylum in the UK.

"He has what's called an exceptional leave to remain until the day before his 18th birthday. He's got a couple of years here, and then he'll either get expelled, or appeal and it will hang on the result of the appeal."

The film is due to be released next year.


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24 Apr 02 | Entertainment
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