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Trouble Sleeping

Film Three Stars
A film like Trouble Sleeping wouldn't have interested me before I started Filmstalker and began expanding my viewing tastes. I wouldn't have been interested in seeing a locally produced film showing the plight of refugees trying to make a life for themselves in a new country before trying to see as much as possible at the EIFF.

Now I'm so glad that I did watch the film as it turned out to be a little gem not only of writing but also of newcomers acting on screen - there's definitely some talent here for the picking.

Plot.pngTroubleSleeping.jpgTrouble Sleeping follows the story of a number of refugees trying to make new lives for themselves in Scotland after escaping persecution in their respective homelands. The film features a mix of refugees but really focuses on those from Muslim countries and those around them.

TheFilm.pngThis is a really interesting film which tackles an extremely contentious subject without controversy, prejudgement, or some preaching voice. Instead it looks to these people and tells their story in a real way with real people.

One of the things that struck me immediately about the film is the mix of languages, something that I had not thought about beforehand but was glad that it was this way. We swap from Arabic to English and vice versa throughout the film, and that's something that is reflected in the film itself.

There's never really a predominant feel to the film of one or the other, and throughout there's not a feeling of sides being on religion or race, the sides are the authorities, the system and real people.

I think that's one of the great strengths of the film in that it so successfully weaves together the two cultures in the story and within the characters. Indeed I was surprised that I wasn't watching Muslims drenched in their religion and culture fighting hard to retain their own way of life in a foreign country.

The film showed the two worlds being mixed together, it didn't just present the refugees lives but poured enough Scottish-ness into the story and the characters to draw both sides of the audience in.

On a character level the film manages to show the individuals and their stories well. It opens up their lives quickly and easily, and manages to push through any stigma or misconceptions that you might have coming into the cinema or when you first meet the characters.

This isn't filled with black and white characters, and I don't mean this in a non-politically correct way (frankly I don't care about that anyway), the characters are pretty complex and the refugees aren't just shown as good and the locals and officials as bad. Indeed we see the refugees fighting amongst themselves and struggling with their beliefs and religions as well as locals fighting for their rights.

This is more like the real life than the over simplified view that the media often present, and it comes through well with the characters in this film.

Trouble Sleeping offers us a strong story of a number of very real characters looking to start new lives in Scotland. The writing of these characters and stories is very strong, and comes from a group of writers including Ghazi Hussein who has witnessed first hand the torture and abuse before he came to Scotland himself. Along with the other writers, including the director Robert Rae, they talked with real refugees and pulled out a lot of very real stories. So a lot of this has been written from the heart.

The dialogue is good, however there were a few points when I felt as though it raced over the story and I found it a little difficult to keep up with it. Perhaps a few more explanatory scenes in these situations would have helped make the story stronger.

I also felt that another edit could have tightened up the film, and the story, as there were a few moments where the story did seem to drag on a little and could have had more punch had it moved on a little bit faster.

Also there are a few times where I felt we were being pulled between the different plot threads a little too quickly and the stories of the characters didn't flow as well as they could have. These breaks in the character development do make it a little harder to follow their stories and it perhaps could have benefited from staying with them a little longer in order for the audience to make more of a connection with them.

The performances from the actors are good, and it has to be remembered that these actors are mostly all newcomers and some complete amateurs and it's far from fair to judge them against performances from top class actors.

The female lead, Alia Alzougbi, is very good and manages to convey a great range of emotion - she sat in front of me at the première and I have to say she looked fabulous, as did the entire cast who arrived dressed up for the occasion, well done them. The character of the waiter, played by Fouad Cherif, is also very memorable, he had a good comic timing that worked well in the film.

That's another surprise, the humour in the story. There were a few laughs that were raised and it managed to lighten the tone through some of the very serious issues presented by the characters.

One of the strongest moments is when the torture story is revealed. It doesn't quite manage to convey the weight of emotion and terror both then and now, when the characters relive the experience, but the sadness and pain is tangible.

There's also an interesting musical score that sometimes becomes a little too much of a character of its own, but it does compliment the film well by playing traditional songs and not relying on a standard score.

Overall.pngTrouble Sleeping did a good job of presenting the views of refugees within Scotland without painting an opposite and secular point of view or way of life. The film and the characters don't exclude any member of the audience, and it does a much better job of mixing the two societies and cultures than other films I've seen around this subject.

I did enjoy the stories and the film, although it is apparent that this is a low budget film carrying a cast of newcomers and amateur actors, and yet they should be applauded for creating a film that could, and should, have a much wider audience, and one that will appeal to a lot of people.

There are a lot of good messages in the film, and it doesn't over dramatise them, making them into a tension packed cinematic story, rather it prefers to play them out a more realistically and honestly.

People should see this film and ones just like it, as it would go a long way to helping them understand each other and even their own people.

Q&A with Robert Rea, Eddie Dick, Ghazi Hussein and some of the stars of the film:
Robert Rea said he was very much influenced by Jim Sheridan and Ken Loach.

All of the stories in the film are true and come from real people.

Two of the men in the story lost their appeals to stay in the country and were going to be sent home. However they have since committed suicide rather than return.

The film is still looking for an international distributor, and the production team want it to be shown in the Middle East. They are looking now, and if anyone is keen on offering them a deal, get in touch through their official website.

What is surprising them is that there has been interest from America for the film.

Rea believes this country is slipping down a dangerous path with the restricted laws of freedom and immigration.

Hussein is in fact a victim of torture himself, nothing more was mentioned of this during the interview, although it would have made for some fascinating stories to find out more of his own experiences.

I forget who said it, whether it was Rea or Hussein, but one of them said that torture is not about getting information, it's about social control and terrorism.

Search for Trouble Sleeping on Filmstalker stores
Filmstalker's Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008 page



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