By Sarah Mills
BERLIN (Reuters) - Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb hopes his new film "Road to Istanbul" will help raise awareness of what it's like for parents whose children leave to join Islamic State insurgents in Syria.
And to make it really hit home, Bouchareb, 62, said he wanted the family shown in his film, which is screening in the Panorama section of the Berlin International Film Festival, to be from a non-Muslim background.
"I was very moved by the parents in Europe, the mothers, the fathers, who all of a sudden realized that their children have gone on journeys, whether toward Syria or Iraq," Bouchareb told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
"And that interested me, that human dimension of a father or a mother who is going to discover something that they could never have imagined."
Belgian actress Astrid Whettnall plays Elisabeth, a single mother living in the Belgian countryside with her 18-year-old daughter Elodie (Pauline Burlet).
Her life is turned upside down when Elodie fails to come home and Elisabeth discovers she has gone with her new boyfriend to join Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
"I didn't choose someone of Muslim origin and culture," Buchareb said. "I took someone who had nothing to do with that world -- nothing to do with the Arab world, nothing to do with that culture.
"And it's that which interested me, how a young, 18-year-old Belgian girl is going to move toward a conversion, to convert (to Islam), and go to Syria."
Whettnall said that for her portrayal of Elisabeth, she wanted to feel the element of fear that all parents in such a situation would experience. "It's interesting to have the chance to get to know those fears and to respect all the mothers who live those kinds of things," she told Reuters.
In the film, officials tell Elisabeth that because her daughter is an adult, they cannot help to get her back. So Elisabeth decides to find her daughter herself.
"It's because of that as well that I wanted to do the film," Bouchareb said.
"About two years ago, the relatives of those people were completely deprived, with no one to help them, no one to listen to them. I remember they tried to organize press conferences, they tried to assemble themselves, to be listened to," he said.
"And so I said to myself: 'I'm going to make a film in that direction' to perhaps bring something to all those mothers and all those fathers, to all those parents who are looking for their children."
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark Heinrich)