On a Scottish isle, 'Limbo' breaks the refugee movie mold

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In this image made from video provided by Focus Features, Amir El-Masry stars as "Omar" in director Ben Sharrock's Limbo, a film about refugees waiting on a remote Scottish island for residency. The film is based on writer Ben Sharrocks own experience of studying and living in Arab countries, visiting refugee camps and rooted in the fact that asylum seekers are often sent to remote areas of northern European countries while they wait to hear their fate. (Saskia Coulson/Focus Features via AP)

LONDON – Egyptian actor Amir El-Masry was reluctant to read the script of “Limbo.”

He was concerned the film, about refugees waiting on a remote Scottish island for residency, would involve established tropes about a Western savior coming to the rescue.

Instead, it made him reach for the phone and call his agent.

“I was like, ‘I was wrong, you know, it isn’t just any old kind of story about the refugee crisis.’”

El-Masry rejoiced that his character, Omar, “is in the forefront of the narrative and there isn’t a Western character leading him on and letting him forget about his past,” which was exactly as writer-director Ben Sharrock had intended.

“Limbo” is based on Sharrock’s own experience of studying and living in Arab countries, visiting refugee camps, and rooted in the fact that asylum-seekers are often sent to remote areas of northern European countries while they wait to hear their fate.

He believed the audience could relate directly to the characters, without a Western character acting as the guide.

El-Masry’s Omar is grouped together with other immigrants in a house on a cul-de-sac. The only thing they have in common is they are all stranded in a strange land.