Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Cinema Village on Friday, March 25 -- ILLEGAL tracks the experience over a decade of a Russian immigrant and her son in Belgium. To the credit of that small country that resides next to France and part of whose population shares the French language, the film was chosen to represent Belgium in the Best Foreign Lan-guage Film category, despite it showing us some wretched behavior from immigration authorities that may or may not have been well-known to the Belgian government prior to the film's release.
Olivier Masset-Depasse (shown at left), the film takes us into the lives of a mother Tania (Anne Coesens, below left) and son Ivan (played by the director's own son Milo, at age six, and for the rest of the film by Alexandre Gontcharov, below, right). Living in that constantly anxious state (which director and actress capture in spades) that I would think all illegals find themselves from day one until they are either caught and deported or manage to become "legal," Tania tries to get her son to speak French rather than Russian when in public so that they will not be so noticeable. Being a teenager who imagines that things have always been/will always be as they are, he doesn't comply. One day, out of nowhere, they pay the price for this.
Essé Lawson, below right) bears each time she returns to incarceration? When and how we finally learn the answer makes for one of the most powerful and shocking scenes in the film. Masset-Depasse doesn't shy away from the ugly side of things but neither does he rub our noses in it. In fact, prison life in some ways seems remarkably benign, all things considered. One guard (whom I believe is played by Fabienne Mainguet, below, left) is genuinely kind and friendly, and the closeness and help the prisoners provide each other is also bracing for them -- and for us viewers.
Film Movement, the movie's getting a one-week release (March 25-31) in New York at the Cinema Village. So view it there, wait for the DVD to appear, or become a member of this film-of-the-month-club with very smart mainstream/art-house taste. But see it, in any case.