Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Simon & Bilal

WelcomeOver the long weekend, I watched several movies on Netflix, but there is only one I feel compelled to write about--a French film called Welcome.  The film tells the story of Bilal, a Kurdish teenager from Iraq, who arrives in coastal France hoping to get to England to meet up with his girlfriend.  Unfortunately, the French government does not allow Arab refugees to cross over into England.  In addition, the police prosecute French citizens who harbor refugees.  Indeed, they are treated very poorly in order to discourage immigration.  The only practical way to cross into England is by cargo truck, but that method of travel is dangerous, expensive, and physically taxing. Stowaways must wear plastic bags over their heads to avoid detection by carbon monoxide testers, but Bilal just can't do it.  Bilal then decides he will swim across the English Channel and seeks the help of a community center swim coach.  Much of the drama surrounds the relationship between Bilal and Simon, the coach, who must decide whether he wants to be involved.

In many ways, this movie reminded me of The Visitor.  Both films involve middle-aged American or European men, seemingly in the throes of a personal crisis, who are drawn into the immigration debate when they form unexpected and life-changing relationships with Arab immigrants.  Both films are understated, but speak volumes about tolerance and humanity.  Welcome and The Visitor are both available on DVD.

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