Special Flight
(Vol spécial)

Fernand Melgar
Switzerland 2011 | 103 Min. | OmU

They have been living in Switzer­land for many years. They have start­ed fam­i­lies. Their kids are in school. Then one day, they are taken into cus­tody, with­out a trial, with­out a sen­tence. Merely because they don’t have the nec­es­sary papers, their free­dom can be taken away, and they can be held in cus­tody for up to two years before being threat­ened with depor­ta­tion.

After shed­ding light on the con­di­tions inside a deten­tion center for asylum seek­ers in LA FORTERESSE (2008), Fer­nand Melgar turns his focus in this film to the final stage of the migra­tion process – one of the 28 depor­ta­tion cen­ters in Switzer­land for ille­gal immi­grants (“sans-papiers”) and asylum seek­ers whose appli­ca­tions have been reject­ed. After win­ning the trust of the prison admin­is­tra­tion and the inmates, Melgar was able to film inside the insti­tu­tion for nine months.

Mem­bers of the staff sin­cere­ly do the best they can to create humane con­di­tions in the center, keep­ing the men busy with cook­ing and sports. One inmate musi­cian orga­nizes reggae ses­sions that not only his fellow inmates join, but also the guards. When bad news has to be deliv­ered, the men are told gently. Instead of trying to demo­nize the people work­ing in the cen­ters, the film demon­strates the admin­is­tra­tive system behind this mer­ci­less process. By merely show­ing the con­crete dynam­ics between the guards and the detainees, the injus­tice over which they have no con­trol becomes vis­i­ble.

The film also touch­es on the theme of this year’s fes­ti­val – one of the pro­tag­o­nists is a Roma from Kosovo. He is also sent back on a spe­cial flight, after having lived in Switzer­land for 20 years.