The Arrivals

Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard
France 2010 | 113 Min. | DigiBeta, OmeU

The first shot of the film estab­lish­es its agenda: the arrival of the Indian ele­phant god in the streets of Paris. The ele­phant god – a symbol of power and wisdom – is a well­cho­sen metaphor for the clash of for­eign cul­tures that is part of the daily life of the CAFDA, a munic­i­pal recep­tion centre for asylum seek­ing fam­i­lies. For both sides must show power and wisdom – the social work­ers who are con­stant­ly at risk of col­laps­ing under the sheer number of new arrivals, and the asylum seek­ers who are forced to comply with an admin­is­tra­tive logic that must seem as alien and incom­pre­hen­si­ble to them as life on the moon. They come from the Congo, Chech­nya, Sri Lanka or Ethiopia. They come with or with­out doc­u­ments or lug­gage, brought in by immi­grant smug­gler gangs or have entered the Schen­gen area with a tourist visa. Observ­ing both sides’ predica­ments with sym­pa­thy and under­stand­ing, the film accom­pa­nies the CAFDA’s Sisy­phus work. “You will feel good in France”, an employ­ee calms an excit­ed Chechen mother, “there is no war here.”