Analysis Saturday Matinees Preview

Saturday Matinees Preview: NILO (2021)

Director: Zahra Mojahed

Writer: Zahra Mojahed

Running time: 12mins

This year, Indy Film Library is looking to provide films by artists from low-income backgrounds, by opposition groups hit by censorship, or by individuals in nations hit by international sanctions, with a new a platform.

The first season of our Saturday Matinees screenings has already showcased work from Brazil, Iran and Egypt, where monetary and legal constraints have prevented the free communication of political and social issues.

The fifth film in our series comes from Zahra Mojahed. A remarkable first film, this semi-autobiographical documentary charts the journey of Mojahed – an Afghan refugee – through the harsh asylum processes of Iran and Greece, while struggling to pursue her dream of teaching dance.

Speaking about NILO, Mojahed told Indy Film Library, “I made this film to raise the voice of Afghan women and give hope and motivation to other women. As an Afghan refugee woman, I am working to defend the rights of Afghan women and girls.”

Shot digitally, on a shoe-string budget, it goes without saying that the project is a little rough around the edges technically… although, NILO still does a superior job constructing a coherent narrative to a great many filmmakers Indy Film Library has featured, most of whom are working under far more fortuitous circumstances.

The pacing of its scripting and editing in particular rushes through some especially complex and traumatic experiences, which future documentaries by Mojahed might want to spend more time unpacking. With that being said, there is enough on show here to say that it is important for Mojahed to do just that.

In particular, the film is unique, first-hand testimony of an asylum seeker who passed through the infamous Moria camp, in Greece. You might remember that name: Moria was the subject of Alexander Nezam’s We Are Not Together, a film which our review criticised for failing to engage more openly with the refugees it professed to be in honour of.

Mojahed offers up a remedy to that here – presenting a living, breathing, refugee’s perspective on the place. At the same time, that is shown within the context of a human life – a broader framework of past experiences, present traumas, and future hopes. That could well help viewers to move past previously hostile positions on asylum seekers; or understand why people need to flee to Europe, and not the amorphous ‘somewhere closer by’ traditionally favoured in the conjecture of casual racism.

All-in-all then, at just 12 minutes, NILO is more than worthy of your time – and I am extremely proud to present it as part of the Saturday Matinees series.

The film will be available to view in full from tomorrow, until the end of the weekend, via our Saturday Matinees theatre page. As the film is still trying to gain access to other festivals, the page is password protected. Use the code IFLMATINEE2223 to access the film.

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