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Directed by Jacques Audiard

France, 2015

HOME, 13 April 2016


Dheepan, a Tamil Tiger, seeks asylum in France with a fabricated family – wife and daughter – and finds gang warfare and violence there too.

The woman posing as his wife wants to go to Britain and Dheepan watches the BBC to get news of Sri Lanka. That’s interesting, as is the way Britain is depicted at the close: it is a peaceful country, a calm paradise. Also interesting is the absence within the film of any kind of an asylum camp in France, either the Jungle at Calais or the camps that preceded it. It is almost as though the film was made to deliver a message to migrants: Apply for asylum in France, get an EU passport, then go to Britain if you want. Don’t go to a makeshift asylum camp and attempt to enter Britain illegally.

This is a very fine, closely observed drama. The growing intimacy between Dheepan and his ‘family’ is deftly done but what I particularly admired was the way Audiard showed the ‘otherness’ of France as it must surely appear to (some) migrants’ eyes. It put me in mind of Clifford Geertz’s magnificent statement:

To see ourselves as others see us can be eye-opening. To see others as sharing a nature with ourselves is the merest decency. But it is from the far more difficult achievement of seeing ourselves amongst others, as a local example of the forms human life has locally taken, a case among cases, a world among worlds, that the largeness of mind, without which objectivity is self-congratulation and tolerance a sham, comes.