Monday, 16 January 2012

Moving film about migrants trying to reach UK - Welcome

I watched a moving and amazing French film at the weekend called 'Welcome', which when you see the film, you realise the title is meant ironically. It deals with both the thriving racism and xenophobia in Sarkozy's France, and the director, in the interviews, draws sharp parallels between the laws affecting migrants in France and the role which France played, both the Vichy regime and elsewhere, in the deportation of France's Jewish population from 1940 onwards.

The film is set in Calais, where the director spent a lot of time researching the real lives of those migrants desperate to reach the UK. It tells the story of a young Kurdish boy hoping to reach London and the woman he loves who is a migrant there with her family. Hunted by both the racist French police, acting under the orders of the authorities who want not just refugees but also those who assist them criminalised, and those French who show all of the characteristics of those who supported Vichy and the 'Final Solution'.

The film caused an uproar in France and led to debates and a special screening in the French National Assembly, where a proposal to alter the immigration law was voted through by the Socialist Party, so that those, like the characters in the film, who assist migrants, will not be criminalised unless it is done for financial gain. The film was a huge success in France but is relatively unknown here. Dealing as  it does with those many thousands who risk their lives to cross the Channel and reach the UK, it is high time that it is more widely seen in the UK and that the issues behind it are more fully addressed away from the soundbites of the Daily Mail and Migration Watch.

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