Illegal – Gem of a Belgian Movie

Oftentimes in our saner, less-soaked, reflective moments, we wonder why, if all 7 billion of us belong to the same human race, there should be borders separating us.

Truth be said, we long ago divined the simple answer but steadfastly refuse to accept it – Most humans are beasts that want to live in cages with similar beasts.

No surprise here, if you stop to think of it.

After all nations are entities that evolved from tribes whose singular feature was their fierce enmity toward members of other tribes.

Borders – No Deterrent

But try as they may, governments are finding borders to be ineffective deterrents in thwarting determined immigrants, both legal and illegal.

Of course, it’s the illegal immigrants that cause all the hue and cry everywhere.

Both in our current country (USA) and former nation (India), illegal immigration is a major issue that refuses to disappear any time soon.

In India, the Bangladeshis crowding into the big cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata etc are a ready tinder for nefarious elements.

Worse, even Indian migrants from the impoverished states of Bihar or Uttar Pradesh to Delhi and Mumbai are treated with hostility, greeted with violence and considered as, believe-it-or-not, illegal immigrants.

In the U.S., estimates of illegal immigrants vary from 12-million to 20-million.

Most of the illegal immigrants in America are from South America but Indians form the fastest growing group of illegal immigrants.

Although we hear of illegal immigrants pouring into Europe, near as it is to Africa and Asia, accounts of their personal stories rarely make it to America.

Illegal is the personal, deeply moving tale of one illegal immigrant in Belgium.

Illegal – A Brilliant Movie

Beautifully acted by Anne Coesens and deftly directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse, the Belgian-French film is a chilling look at the encounter between a Russian illegal immigrant in Belgium and the government agency that arrests, holds and ultimately deports the illegal immigrants to their homeland.

Tania, a Russian woman in her 30s, lives as an illegal immigrant in Belgium with her 13-year-old son Ivan.

Petrified of being arrested by the immigration agency and deported, we see Tania berating her son to speak in French outside the house.

Tania is so scared of being caught by the immigration agency that one night when her son is asleep she downs a few pegs of Vodka and applies a hot iron to her fingers so that proper fingerprints cannot be taken if she were to be arrested.

But the fate of the world’s miserable and unfortunate is only to encounter more miseries.

So, Tania ends up being arrested one evening as she’s getting off the bus with her son on his birthday. She fights with the two immigration agents to enable her son to run off.

In the Cattle Compound

The detention center is a grim, forbidding place where the illegal immigrants are treated with hostility and disdain.

Denied of medical treatment and abused by the deportation guards, it’s a depressing, inhuman place from which deportation is a certainty for most detainees.

For Tania, the separation from her son is unbearable and she suffocates in the detention center.

Tania’s encounter with the hostile immigration bureaucracy, her relentless efforts to escape and ceaseless determination to reunite with her son against all odds is a remarkable tale beautifully told in this fine film.

Anne Coesens is a superb actress and brings an extraordinary realism to her role of a woman suffering and struggling to endure the separation from her son and seeking to reunite with him.

The photography with the deft use of handheld cameras is very effective in portraying a horrible state of affairs for these poor illegal souls in Belgium.

Esse Lawson shines as the African immigrant Aissa fighting to stay in Belgium.

Aissa fights and fights and fights until her mind and body can’t fight anymore.

With a slight feel of a documentary, Illegal is a powerful movie that leaves a strong impact on you at the end. A feat few movies can boast of achieving.

Illegal – Honors

Illegal was picked for screening in the “Director’s Fortnight” section at the Cannes Film Festival 2010.

The movie was also Belgium’s selection for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category but failed to make the final list.

Your favorite blog strongly recommends Illegal to all you putzheads in the sad certainty that 99% of you chutias will never see it.

Illegal is available on Netflix Instant streaming with English subtitles.

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