In the sprawling Shamshatoo refugee camp in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, right on top of the Afghan border, 15 year-old Jamal (Jamal Udin Torabi) is an orphan who scrapes a living in the local brick factory. His cousin, Enayat (Enayatullah) sells hi-fi gear at his family’s market stall. Enayat is to be sent to London for a chance at a better life, and, thanks to his powers of persuasion and knowledge of English, Jamal is allowed to accompany him on the journey. Their route, planned by professional people smugglers, is by land. Although the overland route is more exhausting and dangerous, it is also considerably cheaper. So begins the boys’ perilous journey across cities, countries and continents, through blazing deserts and frozen mountains, in battered buses, on rickety trucks and aboard heaving, airless shipping containers; the refugees throw themselves on the mercy of the smugglers in the hope of a better tomorrow.


The film opens with brief statistics about the number of refugees living in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan during the last twelve years of war.

Two of them are Jamal and Enayatullah, cousins, whose family fund their illegal journey to England where another cousin is waiting. Jamal, the younger of the two is accompanying his relative because of his facility with English. Their journey from Pakistan through Iran, Turkey and Italy, to France and the ultimate destination in Britain is marked by inefficiency, officialdom, fear of betrayal and very occasional humanity.

There is little character development, there is little point these two men are reduced to the almost basic human dimensions of fear and survival. Michael Winterbottom is really an extraordinary filmmaker. He moves from adapting Thomas Hardy novels to social commentaries of contemporary London in films like Wonderland, from depictions of the punk rock scene in 24 Hour Party People to socially committed films like Welcome to Sarajevo and now, In this World.

Working in difficult circumstances with digital video cameras, using only available light, with two non-professional actors so convincing as the desperate escapees this film is a telling comment on the plight of many of this world's 14 million refugees.

Comments by David Stratton
Michael Winterbottom's film is an eye-opening examination of the perils and dangers facing desperate refugees as they attempt to reach a new life in Britain. Winterbottom, who never makes the same kind of film twice, captures with gripping immediacy the journey of two young men in a reminder that refugees are human beings.