Isle Of Us


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Isle Of Us
"An emotionally intelligent film that captures the contours of a life transplanted." | Photo: Courtesy of Doc/Fest

"The word 'refugee' makes me feel like I am less," says Isle of Bute barber Mounzer, who has built a life on the Scottish island with his family after fleeing the war in their Syrian homeland.

It's just one of many observations that's worth listening to in this warm portrait by Laura Wadha, who describes herself as "half Syrian, half Scottish". Her awareness of two worlds feeds into this film, which shows Mounzer and his kids - including daughter Lulu, whose Scots brogue is coming along nicely - in their day-to-day lives but also blends in home video footage from Syria. Self-identity is a key element. Mounzer is raising his children with tales and TV shows from their homeland and ensuring their language skills are up to scratch but you can sense his melancholy about having to leave his old life behind, along with all the physical and cultural touchstones that his kids won't get to experience.

The filmmaker also has a keen eye for small observations about Scottish island life - it's noticeable that many of Mounzer's customers are English incomers and one also talks about the way that the "young ones move away" to the mainland - a bridge perhaps between the sense of loss experienced by the older islanders and Mounzer when they consider the next generation.

There's a welcome here but also an awareness of "difference" that endures, along with some profound observations from Mounzer on the nature of home - something that, unsurprisingly, he thinks about a lot. The work of a barber is part hair cutting and part confessional and Wadha proves equally adept at listening and watching both what is said by those in Mounzer's salon and the reactions to it. The result is an emotionally intelligent film that captures the contours of a life transplanted.

Reviewed on: 04 Jul 2020
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Portrait of a Syrian barber and his family who now live on the Isle of Bute.

Director: Laura Wadha

Year: 2020

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: UK


Doc/Fest 2020

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