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Set on a Scottish island, ‘Limbo’ revitalizes the refugee film genre

Egyptian actor Amir El-Masry was not keen on reading the screenplay for “Limbo,” a film about refugees awaiting residence on a remote Scottish island, as refugee films traditionally feature tropes. established on a Western savior coming to the rescue.

However, after reading, he picked up the phone and called his agent.

“I was like, ‘I was wrong, you know, this is not just any old story about the refugee crisis.'”

El-Masry rejoiced that his character, Omar, “is at the forefront of the narrative and that there is no Western character who guides him and allows him to forget his past”, which was exactly what. that writer-director Ben Sharrock had anticipated.

‘Limbo’ is based on Sharrock’s own experience of studying and living in Arab countries, visiting refugee camps, and rooted in the fact that asylum seekers are often sent to remote areas of countries of the world. Northern Europe while waiting to hear their fate.

He believed that the audience could relate directly to the characters, without a Western character serving as a guide.

Omar d’El-Masry is grouped with other immigrants in a house in a dead end. The only thing they have in common is that they are all stranded in a foreign country.

And while he left Syria, it is clear that Omar still dreams of the people, places and smells of his home. If it was sure, he would be there.

Born in Cairo and raised in London, El-Masry saw the warm response to film on the film festival circuit, in Cannes, Toronto, San Sebastian and Zurich.

He feels like the audience is connecting with the idea of ​​identity and is in an unfamiliar place, far from friends and family.

Co-star Vikash Bhai believes the pandemic has created parallels as well, even though it was filmed in 2018.

“More than ever, you would be able to relate to that kind of experience, to be in limbo, not knowing where you are at, what is to follow.”

El-Masry also believes the film is “a beautiful reflection of life in general”, balancing comedy and drama.

“All mishaps end up being very, very funny for lack of a better word,” he says, adding that British and Arab cultures tend to laugh at misfortunes. “It’s something that is very relevant in that sense.”

El-Masry studied the Syrian dialect, met groups of single male refugees, and spent two months on a quest to master the oud musical instrument for a scene in the film (it takes seven years in the real world) – making cry an additional film with his performance.

The film itself was shot on the Uist Islands in the Outer Hebrides, the first feature film to be shot there.

Sharrock admits it was nearly impossible to tackle the region’s high winds, rising tides and changing weather conditions, even though the result was worth it.

While the scenery may seem both grim and breathtaking, there is optimism and hope – especially in the form of Farhad, Omar’s Afghan roommate played by Bhai, who has the patience and the positivity to support him in this strange purgatory.

It helps that Farhad also has a chicken named after Freddie Mercury.

“For the emotional stuff, we had a chicken. And then for all the stunts it was the other, ”Bhai said.

“I’ve never really hung out with a chicken before, but he was super cool, man.” He would just snuggle up and be very comfortable.

The film also stars Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ola Orebiyi and Kwabena Ansah.

“Limbo” was nominated for Best British Film of the Year at the BAFTAs, although the honor went to “Promising Young Woman”. It opens in US theaters on Friday.

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