My English Cousin (Karim Sayad, Switzerland/Qatar) — TIFF Docs

By Meg Shields

My English Cousin is probably what it would actually feel like to be a fly on the wall: people scratch their asses, bicker harmlessly with loved ones, and pack and repack their bags. It’s a hard truth: most people just aren’t that interesting. The documentary follows director Karim Sayad’s cousin Fahed, who moved from Algeria to England in 2001. Fahed has footholds—pub mates, a wife, kids—but he feels like he should return home—maybe; he’s not sure. He says he wants to return to be with his ailing mother, but that doesn’t sit quite right. The pull drawing Fahed home feels much hazier, and possibly ignoble: when you feel lost and stuck, where else to go but home? As presented in the film, Fahed is shuffling head down through his life. He drifts the way recent graduates do: the listing procrastination of someone who knows they should be doing something with themselves, but would rather not because taking a stand on what you want is a risk. As a record of someone with a foot in two cultures, the loneliness that stalks Fahed across borders feels less like cultural whiplash than the condition of someone paralyzed by their own indecision. I found myself wishing the director would speak, and hold his cousin to account for his actions, or rather lack thereof.

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