Thursday, June 30, 2011

Illégal (2010)

Olivier Masset-Depasse's Illégal, which comes out tomorrow in Montreal, probably won the SACD Award during the Directors' Fortnight at last year's Cannes International Film Festival more for the issue it addresses than its substance.

We follow Tania (Anne Coesens), an illegal immigrant from Russia who's been living in Belgium for eight years with her 13-year-old son Ivan (Alexandre Gontcharov). This is because the Belgian government denied Tania's political asylum request. Moreover, this former French teacher in Russia burnt her fingerprints.

She wants her son to always speak to her in French in public to avoid rousing suspicion. On her son's birthday, she bends that rule just to please him. Unfortunately, two cops ask Tania to produce her papers, which she doesn't have. She's brought to a detention facility for future deportees and Ivan is on the run.

Although Belgian actress Anne Coesens bent over backwards to sound like a Russian, I had some reservations. This is because director Olivier Masset-Depasse didn't bother to hire a real Russian for the lead role. Nonetheless, what Coesens lacks in ethnic genuineness, she makes up for it with her ability to convey the pains and fits of paranoia an illegal immigrant might go through.

By showing us what the Belgian authorities are ready to do, the film is akin to an interesting documentary and a social critique unashamedly in favour of illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, Illégal misses the opportunity to bring new angles of thoughts to the ongoing debate regarding illegal immigration in Europe. It doesn't explain why Anna left Russia, a country which is regarded as a democracy by our leaders.

With that said, Illégal is a so-so film which is in sync with what we see in the news. With his hand-held camera, Masset-Depasse shakes us up by casting a light on what's going on in detention facilities. However, I wasn't entirely shaken up, because I felt I was kept at an arm's length from the film's heroine.

Rating: 3/5

Origin:Belgium/Luxembourg/France (2010)
Length:90 minutes
Screenplay:Olivier Masset-Depasse
Director:Olivier Masset-Depasse
Starring:Anne Coesens, Alexandre Golntcharov and Esse Lawson

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