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Review: Illégal

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Through the mirror of illegal immigration

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- A moving, in-depth look at the struggle of an immigrant woman who is arrested after many years of living illegally in Belgium. A powerful film finalist of the LUX Prize of the European Parliament 2010

Review: Illégal

The Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2010 has presented Belgian director Olivier Masset-Depasse’s second feature Illegal [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Olivier Masset-Depasse
film profile
]
.

Tania, a Russian illegal immigrant, has been living in Belgium for eight years with her 13-year-old son Ivan. Quietly integrated, they live in constant fear of being detained for questioning, which is an inevitability. As soon as this happens, the camera clings to Tania’s body, and follows her to a closed detention centre.

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Her sole obsession is to protect her son from deportation, and this angle enables Masset-Depasse to avoid the pitfalls of the genre. It is not a question here of offering viewers a sociological study of detention camps, although the film doesn’t hide the realities of that world. Through Tania’s encounters, we discover the centre’s “residents”, the other refugees, as well as the police officers and wardens, who are all plunged into an inhuman situation, at the limits of the describable.

It’s a delicate balance when emotion seems easy: filming Tania’s distress, her terror at the suddenness and violence of the deportation which threatens her and takes away her Malian fellow detainee, children imprisoned in the centre, the agony of the telephone… The situation echoes the numerous reports that have recently cast a tragic shadow over the news, and the inevitable ends up happening, Tania also becomes a news story.

With a formal mastery amply demonstrated in his debut feature, Cages [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
(sometimes to the detriment of its characters), Masset-Depasse here hides his directorial presence behind a plot that is heavy but never ponderous, giving a topical subject a narrative and universal side, between incomprehension and revolt.

The film was produced by Versus (new regular in the Directors’ Fortnight, where the company previously presented Eldorado [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and Private Lessons [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Jacques-Henri Bronckart
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile
]
in 2008), in co-production with Luxembourg’s Iris, France’s Dharamsala and Flanders’ Prime Time. Sold by Films Distribution, Illegal will be distributed by Haut et Court in France (release on October 13), and O’Brother in Belgium.

Illegal is one of the three finalist of 2010 LUX Prize

photogallery

international title: Illegal
original title: Illégal
country: Belgium, France, Luxembourg
sales agent: Playtime
year: 2010
directed by: Olivier Masset-Depasse
screenplay: Olivier Masset-Depasse
cast: Anne Coesens, Olivier Schneider, Esse Lawson

main awards/selection

Cannes 2010 Directors’ Fortnight
SACD Prize
LUX Prize of the European Parliament 2010 In competition
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