African Women Voices
PLOT: Bilal is 17 years old, a Kurdish boy from Iraq. He sets off on an adventure-filled journey across Europe. He wants to get to England to see his love who lives there. Bilal finally reaches Calais, but how do you cover 32 kilometers of the English Channel when you can’t swim? The boy soon discovers that his trip won’t be as easy as he imagined.
When Phillippe Lioret, director of the French movie Welcome, commented on his work, he said:
I have the feeling of having described the story of a guy who is protecting a Jew in a cave back in 1943
The statement created quite a polemic in France. In fact, some film directors accused Lioret of exaggerating the French immigration situation.
In Welcome Bilal is running away from a war in Iraq, he’s under age and has travelled three months to arrive to Calais. His aim is London.
Several scenes in the movie portray France as a country where migrants are not welcomed and where ignorance and fear lead to discrimination. But some people are shown helping illegal migrants and asylum seekers, though they have to face criminalisation.
This is what Lioret was apparently against, as it is explained in an article published on the national French television website:
With his statement and this film the director didn’t want to compare the situation of migrants in Calais with the holocaust, but was trying to denounce the “repressive mechanism” which is “strangely similar” to the one in the 40s.