Albana's Asylum

Albana's Asylum


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Albana's Asylum opens with the police closing in on an unmarked van parked on a quiet back road. When they force their way inside it they find a group of terrified illegal immigrants, some of whom flee. Amongst those who doesn't is teenager Albana, huddled in the back with her parents. The film follows her experiences four years later, when she is resident on a Glasgow housing estate, still waiting to hear about her asylum claim.

The potency of this ambitious film derives from the fact that it was made by a crew largely composed of asylum seekers, working in conjunction with young people from some of Glasgow's most deprived areas. Aware that they were dealing with a familiar subject, they aimed to concern themselves less with politics and more with the emotional experiences of individuals in that situation. The result is a simple story which is astonishingly moving. Superb performances all round draw in the viewer and make it easy, for the most part, to overlook technical problems such as poor lighting and a tendency for school scenes to resemble Grange Hill. Some of the scenes of Albana being bullied look shaky and contrived, but the actress' reactions are always spot on, so that we never doubt her.

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Being only ten minutes long, Albana's Asylum wisely eschews complicated - or, as they might be considered, more adult - storylines. It is aimed squarely at viewers the age of its protagonists and, despite its bleak theme, there's plenty of humour present to help engage them. Anyone who has experienced bullying will find it easy to identify with a girl whose biggest problem, ultimately, is rejection. Over the course of the story we see her wounded more by the loss of hope than by any direct insult or violence.

Well paced and with a pleasingly open ending, Albana's Asylum showcases some promising talent. It is particularly impressive in its development of themes, with open views, bridges and trains all suggesting the freedom which Albana's new home supposedly has to offer, a freedom she is unable to grasp. It's a superb effort to communicate a side of the asylum debate which, strangely, we rarely encounter.

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2006
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An Albanian teenager struggles to find social acceptance in Glasgow, where she is seeking asylum.

Director: Maria Baskhanova

Year: 2006

Runtime: 10 minutes


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