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by Fernand Melgar


At the Registration Centre in Vallorbe, in the Swiss canton of Vaud, documentarist Fernand Melgar follows asylum-seekers throughout the process, limited to sixty days, that will result in their being granted refugee status, or not. An Armenian man, arriving at night in a lorry, is given some toiletries and is allocated a dorm. There he meets another Russian speaker who shows him around. Interviewed twice by a government official, the claimants have to justify their presence in Switzerland in terms of the danger they will face if they return to their home country. A centre employee explains to a young man from Togo that his country is now safe and that he must go back, while the latter wants only to see his father, who lives in Switzerland, and cannot understand why he is being refused to stay. At other moments, a real sense of community is felt, as in one long winter evening when the centre director, invited to a religious gathering, is visibly moved as he watches these believers, who, far from home and family, have not lost hope and keep smiling.

original title: La forteresse
country: Switzerland
year: 2008
genre: documentary
directed by: Fernand Melgar
screenplay: Fernand Melgar
cinematography by: Camille Cottagnoud
film editing: Karine Sudan
producer: Fernand Melgar
production: Climage, RTS - Radio Télévision Suisse, ARTE France, Radiotelevisione Svizzera di Lingua Italiana, SRG SSR idée suisse
distributor: Look Now!


main awards/selection

Locarno Film Festival 2008 Filmmakers of the Present
Golden Leopard

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Croatia On the Other Side