Test screening: Jason Wingard’s In Another Life

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In late January, I was lucky enough to attend a private test screening of Jason Wingard’s first feature film, In Another Life at Home Theatre, Manchester. Initially entitled The Crossing, this unique mix of documentary and fiction film takes apart and explores what it might mean to cross—from one country to another, from one home to another, and from one life to another. It challenges the notion of ‘refugee’, questioning what it means to have your individuality stripped as you enter a place of displacement and desperation: The Calais Jungle.

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The audience are introduced to Adnan (Elie Haddad) and Bana (Toyah Frantzen) through a series of flashbacks which see the couple embark on their attempted journey from Syria to the UK. Wingard’s decision to juxtapose their story against the story of Adnan and Yousef (Yousef Jubeh) results in a fragmented viewing experience, one which is reflective of the journey itself. Moving from Adnan and Bana’s journey to Adnan and Yousef’s denies the audience knowledge of the whereabouts of Bana, knowledge which is denied to Adnan himself. There is a sense of loss and uncertainty which is magnified by the fact that not only are they separated in regards to the content of the film, but also via and through its very form. This results in a shift in the film’s focus from Bana and Adnan’s relationship to Yousef and Adnan’s, whose friendship and comradery we see grow and develop as they are united in their desire to escape from The Jungle.

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To me, it is this story which is important to tell. Whilst Adnan’s struggle is one driven largely by his desperation to be reunited with Bana, focusing instead on the refugees in The Jungle allows for each individual’s own force of desperation to be explored. Moments of truth and honesty are uncovered via the intimate conversations the film manages to capture, conversations which are rooted entirely in the reality of refugees. This is a credit to the film’s ability to bridge the gap between documentary and film; there is no split between the actors and the refugees, no distance between them. Instead, the stories of the refugees are the stories of the film itself.

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Biniyam Biruk Theshome—who goes by the name Mima–is a refugee. But, rather than the film exploiting his position and his story by presenting him as an ‘other’, someone apart from Yousef or Adnan, he is presented to the viewer in the same way they are. This is truly a rare feat, and something which sets In Another Life apart from the many other documentaries and news stories out there. So often do we see refugees presented in an isolated light, their position as a refugee coming before their position as a human. They are reduced to little more than a demonstration of a wider crisis, an example to support an argument. This film manages to achieve what these do not: the expression of what is undeniably a socio-political message, without utilising scripted stories or sadly saturated statistics. Stunning cinematography and musical accompaniment elevate this film to the success that it is. Neither fiction film nor documentary, it manages to utilise both, highlighting the virtues of each.

In Another Life shows and tells the audience about the refugee crisis directly from within, which is only achievable when people like Mima become a part of the storytelling process itself, as opposed to a device utilised to prove a point.

Make sure not to miss this beautiful piece of film when it comes to a cinema near you.