On The Receiving End

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

On The Receiving End: Exiled Journalists Speak Out is a small film with a loud voice. The brainchild of producer Sam Hearn, it has turned the usual system on ts head by putting journalists themselves in the spotlight and enabling them to speak directly about their own experiences. These are all well educated, highly articulate people, many of them with legal training, and they are able to provide an insight into the workings of the British asylum process which few have matched. This film has been shown to newspaper editors at a senior level and is being incorporated into various training programmes to help those involved in the profession, and in government, understand what it can entail in extreme circumstances.

Many of the journalists appearing in this film have been tortured. They're used to speaking to camera, yet several of them look frail and shaky; one has a scar in his eye which he never talks about, yet which cannot help but grab the viewer's attention. The presentation is simple, just a series of low-lit rooms with seated interviewees, perhaps reminiscent of an interrogation, though the accounts given are fluent and assured, just verging on anger. Their very matter-of-factness makes some of what they talk about all the more chilling. No attempt is made to censor the distressing details; the film also serves as a commentary on the nature of the regimes from which they escaped.

As a political statement, On The Receiving End is highly effective, though perhaps just a little too simplistic in its structure to have as powerful an effect as it might have done, with some of the accounts becoming too similar after a while (that, too, ought to be horrifying, yet it somehow loses its impact). It could have benefited from tighter editing, yet it does a good job of getting its message across in such a way that it cannot be accused of emotional manipulation - these are plain facts. If you're new to the subject, it may well give you nightmares all the same.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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Journalists from around the world recount their experiences of persecution and of seeking asylum in the UK.

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