Review: Nasim – Cineuropa

– The second feature from co-directors Arne Büttner and Ole Jacobs is an intimate documentary and a damning account of Europe’s human rights failures

Many TV reports and documentaries were made at Europe’s largest refugee camp, Moria, on the Greek island of Lesvos before it burned down in 2020. But Nasim by German co-directors Arne Buttner and Ole Jacobswhich has just had its international premiere at Hot Docs, stands out for its patient and humanistic approach as well as the fact that it was shot when the fires broke out.

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Büttner is also credited as cinematographer, Jacobs as sound engineer and both as editors with Janina Herhofer. Of course, a larger crew wouldn’t have been able to capture all of the intimate moments in this story of Nasiman Afghan refugee from Iran who is in Moria with her husband Chamsullahyoung child Alireza and teenage son Mohammedalongside his extended family, including his mother and sister.

Now 38, Nasim was forced to marry her husband when she was just 13. He was a member of the mujahideen fighting the Soviets, and she only begins to uncover parts of his past as they prepare for an asylum interview. Prompted by her outspoken sister, she coyly contemplates a divorce and release from a loveless marriage, one of the few options Muslim women can take advantage of in their dire situation in Europe.

Shamsullah, proud of his boxing prowess and ability to deliver a mean massage, doesn’t seem like a villain, but we don’t see much of their one-on-one interaction beyond interview prep. and a miner arguing over a pot. He finds himself, probably for the first time, in an inferior position: the fact that Nasim knows how to read and write, and that she sometimes unofficially replaces a teacher, gives him the upper hand over the illiterate in this situation.

Nasim is really at a crossroads here. Alireza hates the boxing classes his father signed him up for, and Mohammed has started smoking, hanging out with kids his family doesn’t approve of, and wants to run away to Athens. Nasim suffers from an illness that often renders his hands useless, and one particularly poignant scene shows Alireza helping him tie his shoelaces. When it comes to learning English, Nasim says she can’t, because of her “messed up head”, but there’s nothing wrong with her as long as the viewer can tell. detect.

On the contrary: the co-directors have found a woman who is both courageous and gentle, curious and shy, endowed with a keen sense of justice but still weighed down by a sense of responsibility in keeping with patriarchal customs. It’s hard not to feel for this protagonist with her seemingly invincible spirit under the most difficult of circumstances. And then, a Greek nationalist protest takes place in Moria and the fires soon follow. The film doesn’t tell us, but Google does: four underage Afghan refugees were eventually sentenced to ten years in prison after a trial closed to the media due to COVID measures.

The fact that the doc was shot during COVID serves to further lay bare Europe’s disregard for human rights. Imagine if the measures were applied to you while living in such conditions, unlike the general population. Combined with Nasim’s story, in which the co-directors manage to find real moments of poetry in the hell that was Moria, it’s a damning account of the continent’s shameful record.

Nasim is a co-production between German companies Uebl GbR and Rosenpictures Filmproduktion GbR.

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