Presented as part of the film series Promised Land
May They Rest in Revolt (Figures of War)
French filmmaker and activist Sylvain George spent 3 years, from July 2007 to November 2010, around Calais filming migrants, mainly young men, in different parts of the city and its surroundings. Taking the stance of an observer who seems to have gained the trust of the people he films, he captures scenes from the men’s daily routine, such as washing themselves by a river, having meals or simply sleeping, but also police round-ups, attempts to stow away under lorries and getting ready for their entry into Britain by destroying their fingerprints with hot nails. Rather than explaining the situation of the men and constructing a narrative around one or several of them, he gives them a physical presence and at times a voice, when they sing or express their frustration about their situation. All this is filmed in stark black-and-white, which seems to emphasise the squalor, harshness and hopelessness of the situation but also facilitates a degree of abstraction which underpins the film’s refusal to move along individual storylines.
In the second part of the film the focus shifts to “The Jungle”, the camp which in recent years has become one of the focal points of what has been termed the ‘European refugee crisis’ and UK discussions about immigration. Sylvain George follows the move of the French authorities to demolish the camp in September 2009 when about 800 people lived there, many of them from Afghanistan. He follows the events from the first warnings to the refugees by French NGO members to the flattening of the makeshift shelters by bulldozers, conveying the confusion and turmoil of this event, the disbelief and desperation of the camp inhabitants, the sudden outbursts of aggression of the police against protestors, the hectic movement around the arrival of the then French Minister of Immigration, National Identity and Development, Eric Besson, and how all of this is recorded and explained by countless journalists and media teams.
It is 6 years ago now that Sylvain George stopped filming in Calais. On 24 October 2016 the French government set out to dismantle “The Jungle” and to distribute the refugees and migrants to reception centres all over France where they would be able to start the process of applying for asylum. The UK government Office has agreed to accept a number of unaccompanied children who have families in Britain under the Dublin Regulation and vulnerable children with no UK ties under the Dubs Amendment to the UK Immigration Act. There are not definite numbers and the assessment who is allegeable can take months. It is unlikely that the demolition of “The Jungle” has put an end to the situation of refugees and migrants being stuck in camps in France. There are at least five other smaller camps in Northern France and the official Grande Synthe camp run by MFS and the local authority at Dunkirk, which accommodates about 2500 inhabitants. It is likely that these camps will now see an increased influx of people and that people will keep on coming to Calais.
Best International Documentary, Filmmaker Film Festival 2010; Jury Prize, International Film Festival Valdivia, Chile, 2010; FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize and Best Documentary, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema (BAFICI) 2011; Special Mention, International Competition, Pesaro Film Festival, Italy, 2011.
France 2007 – 2010, b/w & colour, 157mins, with English subtitles.
Directed by Sylvain George.
The screening will be followed by a conversation with director Sylvain George hosted by Natasha King, author of No Borders - The Politics of Immigration Control and Resistance, London: Zedbooks, 2016.
Please note that the start time varies from the other events in this series.