In 2015, Director Hassan Nazer and writer Amir Aghee gave birth to a sophisticated, well-written tale that I can describe best as haunting; or as Der Spiegel puts it, “An elegant and thrilling journey between two very different worlds”. Afghan drama film Utopia is a tragic tale of a woman whose pursuit for happiness is infected from start to end, and leaves the question of whether Utopia exists or not, open to the audience.
The films portrayal of social realism during a fragile period, post-war in Afghanistan, is one of praise, bringing the experience of tragedy and heartache to the forefront. Utopia deals with the nature of migration: what is means to be an immigrant and how it feels, which the film’s protagonist, Janan, embodies. Director Nazer aimed to express just how courageous it is to be an immigrant and the difficulties that may come with that, which are issues that remain widely relatable till today. On the back of this, the film also tackling different cultural, religious and moral complications around the issue of artificial insemination and human liberty, making it a must-see during such a progressive day and age.
The narrative of Utopia is made up of three intersecting stories of loneliness and isolation that seamlessly weave together the very different lives of characters based in Afghanistan, India and Scotland. You will be thrown into states of both hope and hopelessness, feeling compelled to route for the protagonist, Janan’s, happiness; a woman from Afghanistan who travels to the UK for artificial insemination. After William, a medical sciences student working at a clinic that Janan is registered at, switches the donor’s semen for his own, Janan’s courageous decision to bear a child takes a complicated turn. What she is left with is the painful truth of what William has done and the added pain of finding out that the unintended father of her child comes from a family with a long standing connection to the forces that have served in wars in her homeland. What will happen following these revelations is dark and heart-rending, and given the film’s title, shocking, but definitely worth the watch!
Throughout the film, we beg for Janan’s bliss but instead, we are left as empty and hurt as she is, and this is the power of cinema. Utopia’s ability to stir its audience proves just how compelling the combined works of Nazer and Aghee are in creating a milestone tale. But with all the suffering and unfortunate events that the character’s face in mind, all the unhappy ever afters we witness in the film, where everything seems to be going downhill and where silver linings do not exist, the question still stands: Is there such a thing as Utopia?
Gaining high praise, Utopia won Best Film and Best Director at the Triangle Film Festival, the Golden Camera award at the Nashik film festival and the Best Feature Film at the Toronto film and video awards. The success of the film alone speaks volumes so make sure you bring along friends and family to Regents Street Cinema on March 11th 2017, 5:00pm -7:00pm to witness a powerful, thought-provoking story unravel before your very own eyes! Book by clicking here.
Rim Karama is a 3rd year English and Film Studies student from Queen Mary University, published author, poet and film enthusiast.