Featuring Indira and Mehdina, two Bosnian sisters who try to escape their life of poverty in their homeland, Claudia Marschal’s documentary observes the xenophobia and financial insecurity faced by immigrants from the Balkans, an area already troubled by a history of political turbulence. The “paradise” hinted at in the title, however, is a mirage, as the women and their families struggle to settle down in France and Germany.
Indira and her young children are placed in an immigration centre in Germany where they apply for asylum – which is ultimately denied. As Indira is turned away from what she hoped to be a brighter future, Mehdina is arguably more fortunate, as she was able to emigrate to France – though, at the time, she was only 14 and already married. While people at home presume she has a better life in her new country, she faces constant money worries, forced even to sell her jewellery. Amid such hardships, the film’s most moving sequences involve the sisters’ children, most of whom are oblivious to the adults’ turmoil: Indira’s children, for example, can still enjoy a game of hide and seek in the cramped conditions in the immigration centre.
However, there is a basic lack of intimacy here. It is difficult to glean much about Indira and Mehdina’s personalities, or their relationship to each other, and little of their family background is mentioned. The film aims to focus on the tyranny of borders, but fails to convey a tangible sense of the spaces that the sisters inhabit – Bosnia, France and Germany are flattened into indeterminacy. This ends up more as a straight news report rather than offering the insight of a cinematic documentary.
• In Our Paradise is on True Story from 22 October.