Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Welcome" - film by Philippe Lioret

I just finished watching this and am still crying my eyes out. Bilal, a Kurdish teen, walked for months from Iraq, to try to find his girlfriend in England. As his attempts to cross the Channel with a handler fail, he decides to try to swim the Channel, and starts training at the local swimming pool. The relationship that develops between Bilal and his swimming instructor resembles an awkward father/son relationship, where the father figure, Simon (played by Vincent Lindon), tries to help Bilal, but obviously feels conflicted about this, as he is going through his own personal drama (divorce) at the same time.
The film also depicts how refugees are treated in France (they are not sent back to their country of origin if said country is at war; but do not have any rights while they stay n France - basically al is done so that they are pushed to go back home again). it is also illegal for French citizens to help or house refugees, and the police can literally search a home without a warrant if they feel the need to.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I've always liked Vincent Lindon, and he plays his role excellently here.

More information on the movie:
Mars Distribution (French)
IMDB (English)

This brings up a much larger question... The immigration situation is a huge deal in most Western European countries. Whereas in the past immigrants were pretty much welcomed with open arms (think of the Poles that were taken from refugee camps in Uganda after WW2, and given automatic British citizenship for helping rebuild England; or the Algerians who were given homes and work in France in the 60's and 70's when there were too many jobs and not enough people to do them); nowadays people are either sent back to their countries of origin or, if they are deemed to fit within the status of a refugee (see HERE for the ECRE definition) either are held in detention centers, or left to live on the streets with no status, means of income or housing.

I've heard so many arguments from French and English people about this "situation" (from the far left to the far right), everyone has an opinion about it, but no one has a real solution. In the end it should be up to us to actually HELP people who are running for their lives - not treat them like subhumans. Most of the time people will not leave the country they were born in with nothing except the clothes they are wearing if it wasn't because they were in grave danger of torture, rape or death.

Just something to think about.

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