'welcome' is a movie on the line up of the french film festival 2010, the brisbane leg of which is on now until the end of the month. i got to see a free preview of this movie last sunday at the palace centro cinemas on james st.
i found it to be a pleasantly surprising story. while not a movie i would unreservedly recommend or rave about, nor necessarily choose to watch myself if given a choice of where to sacrifice my movie-going dollar, it nevertheless served to raise pertinent questions of prejudice and social concern, as well as touching on the themes of love and commitment.
[warning: possible spoilers ahead]
the main characters in this tale are:
- simon, swimming coach and former champion swimmer, who is finalising his divorce from
- marion, simon's ex-wife, social activist
- bilal, a 17-year old refugee from iraq who ends up in the french town (calais) where simon and marion live, and trying to make his way to england to be reunited with his girl.
in calais there are laws in place to prevent local townsfolk from giving assistance to the refugees. there are some people, including simon's neighbour, who (despite his 'welcome' door mat?) are decidedly unwelcoming of these outsiders. there are others who do show some welcome, like marion and her new man bruno, who try to give help within the confines of the law - they run a mobile food van/soup kitchen type setup for the refugees, but are careful to refrain from conversation with the refugees / standing on the other side of the serving table. marion also disapproves of the practices of a local shop which denies entry to any refugee, and of simon's indifference to their plight. and then there is a welcome from those who decide to help beyond what's allowed by law, regardless of the trouble this brings from unsympathetic residents and the authorities.
without giving too much more away, i thought that the story was believable and touching without being overly emotional. it raises questions without offering solid answers. the story ends badly for one of the characters, and suggests hope for others. it's difficult for me to recommend that one should watch this, but i think if one does watch it, one would benefit from the experience, and perhaps be prompted to consider how welcoming they are in their social contexts.