© Arsenal/Filmagentinnen

France 2009

Opening 4 Feb 2010

Directed by: Philippe Lioret
Writing credits: Olivier Adam, Emmanuel Courcol, Philippe Lioret
Principal actors: Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana, Derya Ayverdi, Thierry Godard

After traveling three months by foot, the young Kurdish teenager Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) arrives in France from Iraq and sees his final destination on the horizon: England. Bilal is young and naïve but has a steadfast determination and begins to research his options, of which there are two. The first way to cross the channel is the easiest, namely by truck, but one must put a plastic bag over his head to keep the CO2 levels down. Due to Bilal’s past as a torture victim, this is not an option. The second is by swimming the channel, which leads him to Simon (Vincent Lindon), a gold medalist swimmer/teacher. Simon takes a risk and teaches Bilal to swim, but at the same time he explains that only the best swimmers can cross the channel and only with the right equipment and an accompanying boat. Bilal has none of these things. What he does have is the sheer determination to be with the girl he loves and to stop her prearranged marriage to a rival. Simon, who currently is dealing with a divorce and is on the verge of losing the love of his life, finds that he is relating to the desperate situation of Bilal and becomes dangerously involved in this boy’s future.

Director Philippe Lioret takes us into the dark and unknown world of the illegal emigrant and shows the injustices that they face. They are not allowed to go into shops to buy their basics needs. They are not allowed to take showers at the local swimming pool, and the local French population is not allowed to help them or they themselves will be in trouble with the law. Lioret reveals the paradox of his country that while a floor mat adorns every front door with the word welcome on it, in actuality the refuges are anything but welcome. The film has a mixture of languages: English, French and Kurdish. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)

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