Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'It's a War, Stupid!'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French PM calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'I love the Socialists'

Read more

WEB NEWS

Ukraine: Web users call for international assistance

Read more

WEB NEWS

France: Fighting political corruption with transparency

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

South Africa: Four men found guilty of shooting Rwandan exile

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

  • Ukrainian forces retreat from Luhansk airport after clashes

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Armeli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • PSG trounce Saint-Etienne 5-0 with Ibrahimovic hat trick

    Read more

  • Putin calls for talks on 'statehood' for east Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rescue efforts under way after French apartment block blast

    Read more

  • Poland marks 75 years since German invasion of WWII

    Read more

  • Israel appropriates large tracts of West Bank land

    Read more

  • Tension rises in Hong Kong as Beijing rejects open elections

    Read more

  • French police stop 'teenage jihadist' from flying to Syria

    Read more

  • Kidnapped Yazidi women 'sold to Islamists' in Syria

    Read more

  • Confusion reigns after Lesotho 'coup'

    Read more

  • French PM vows to safeguard 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Inside Novoazovsk – the pro-Russians' latest conquest

    Read more

  • Filipino UN troops escape Islamists in Golan Heights

    Read more

Culture

Film industry seeks to highlight plight of illegal workers

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2010-02-23

A few days before French regional elections, a screenwriters’ collective has launched a movement to fight for legal status for those working in the country without the proper papers.

A screenwriters guild in France has launched a movement demanding that many of those working in the country without the proper papers be made legal employees in France. Their first strike was a cinematic coup – a short film of interviews with illegal workers in which they revealed their circumstances, showed their pay slips as proof and revealed the names of their employers, which included the prime minister’s office at Matignon, Bouygues Telecom, the National Assembly and the Naf Naf clothing label. It made for a shocking three minutes.

The screenwriters’ collective brings brings together some of the biggest names in French cinema, including the directors Arnaud Desplechin, Costa Gavras, Patrice Chéreau, Abdellatif Kechiche and Cédric Klapisch. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know just who was behind the camera. But the collective gave a face and a voice to some of the estimated 6,000 illegal workers who have been on strike since Oct. 12 in a bid to obtain their working permits. The short film project – which was assembled in just three weeks – is factual, direct and to the point.

Laurent Cantet, director of the French film ‘Between the Walls’ (‘Entre les Murs’), which won the prestigious Palme d’Or award at Cannes in 2008, wanted to give these workers a chance to tell their stories. He wanted to “give a voice to the thousands of people who are on strike in an environment of indifference” by using his filmmaking knowledge “to lend a resonance to the movement”.

“You see that nice Axa [insurance company] tower over there? We built it,” says one illegal worker. Another says he works as a plumber at the prime minister’s office in Matignon, while others make deliveries for such well-known French high-street giants as Carrefour, Franprix and Monoprix. These men and women speak of their daily lives in the employ of reputable enterprises that comprise a significant portion of France’s economic and business worlds. They have all the necessary paperwork: tax returns on the letterhead of the National Assembly, pay slips showing the financial contributions they have made into government coffers in the form of tax payments – everything except that magic document that would make all things possible: a French residence permit.

The testimonies show the perversity of the system in which these people are trapped. “When you have the right papers, they (employers) don’t hire you,” says French screen icon Matthieu Amalric. “If you are illegal, they will hire you, but they will pay you what they want.” Amalric, who attended the short film’s showing on Monday evening, calls the situation “Kafkaesque”. “And then these people are accused of not integrating!” he added incredulously.

‘I have served almost every branch of government’

At the film’s premier, another illegal immigrant tells his story, incomprehensible as it may seeem. “I worked at [the prime minister’s office at] Matignon and as a waiter at Radio France. I have served at almost every branch of government,” he says, including Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and Economic Minister Christine Lagarde. When he told people who he worked for, they asked why he didn’t ask them to help him get papers. “I said I was afraid,” he said, adding: “I was not there for that. I remained professional to the end.”


Several artists from the Paris film scene have already lent their voices to the debate, including the 2007 film ‘Let Them Grow Here’ (‘Laissez-les grandir ici’), released a few weeks before the presidential election that brought Nicolas Sarkozy to office. Since the premier of that film, it has been seen by 2.5 million people, Cantet says, noting that its release was planned to coincide with the launch of the Education Network Without Borders. “The ideas put forward in that film, such as allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend school, have made the problem apparent to everyone,” he said. “We hope the same thing will happen for illegal workers.”

The three-minute film – entitled We work here! We live here! We will stay here! (On bosse ici ! On vit ici ! On reste ici) – is now available online. It will be distributed beginning on March 10 by 500 art-house cinemas in France.

(Main photo credit: © Rondeau Lanvin)

 

Date created : 2010-02-23

COMMENT(S)