Limbo director/writer Ben Sharrock and actor Amir El-Masry on humanising the refugee experience

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Ben Sharrock’s second feature film has been on his mind for some time. After spending some of his student days in Damascus, he worked refugee camps in Southern Algeria on a project about identity, which was to become the heart of the emotional journey at the centre of Limbo – the “refugee” label and how it affects a person’s identity.

Set on a Scottish island where neither the landscape nor the locals are especially welcoming, Limbo focuses on a group of refugees, all far from home and waiting on a decision that will affect the rest of their lives – and over which they have no control. The film focuses especially on Omar, played by Amir El-Masry, and his attempts to come to terms with his new situation and missing his family, who are thousands of miles away.

Talking to The People’s Movies’ Freda Cooper, Sharrock describes how at the start of making the film he had a list of things he wanted to avoid – and a major one was sensationalising the subject matter, including “looking at the refugees as just numbers.” He wanted the film to humanise the refugee experience. “It’s about people, identity, loss and family,” he says.

Shooting the film in Scotland meant that the cast and crew were all miles away from their homes, which gave El-Masry some insight into how his character, Amir, felt about his separation. “We were on an island, the reception was bad, we were away from our families – it got to me,” he said.

Limbo is released in cinemas on 30th July. Read our review of the film here.