Isle of Us Review

Isle of Us

Short film ‘Isle of Us’ was made by NFTS graduate Laura Wadha and is part of the official Sheffield Doc Fest selection for 2020.

In 2015, Syrians were being relocated by the UN across Scotland. After hearing that some families were homed on the remote Isle of Bute, filmmaker Laura Wadha decided to make a film about Mounzer, a Syrian barber who settled in a little Scottish village with his family. Haunted by the ghost of war, he is trying to build a home for himself and his children. The barbershop welcomes locals and soon the community adopts them.

What sounds like a tough watch is actually a moving and poignant short that shows the true human side of Syrian refugees.

The scenes of Mounzer in his barber shop are brilliantly curated. We see him bonding with the Bute locals, the acceptance of his traditional methods and some excellent shots of men having their nasal hair waxed off. At the same time, it highlights the other-ness of Mounzer that still exists. Whether it’s sympathetic well wishes for all he and his family have been through, or clumsily worded attempts at acceptance, we are able to see the world that Mounzer is now living in through this chair.

Equally important and lovingly edited are the scenes of Mounzer being a dad and raising his young children. Watching him try to show them what Syria used to be, what their home was like is heart- breaking. It highlights all he has lost and that he and fellow refugees have not come to change our cultures, they just want to remember their own before those memories are completely erased.

In less than 20 minutes, Wadha is able to show us the true human cost of the Syrian war even for those who were able to leave, and allow us to feel more empathy for the families affected then any news broadcast has managed.

An important short that highlights the significance of community, especially in the face of grief.

Clare Brunton

Ex film teacher and frequent couch potato. I try and see at least one new release a week, but I've somehow got to 30 without having seen The Godfather?