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With the migrant crisis growing, it’s hard to find a film as current as the French director Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan. It’s also hard to find a film as good as Dheepan. The film portrays a captivating drama spoken in Tamil language, a story of three refugees from Sri Lanka who join together as a fake family to escape the civil wars and the grittiness of refugee camps.
Dheepan (Jesuthasan Antonythasan), Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby) find their way to the suburbs of Paris, a melting pot of migrants and a playground of drug swindlers in their 20s.
As the “family” starts their stressful and slow process of migration, they have to not only face each other’s troubled pasts but also find their place in the suburbs, which unfortunately start to remind the life they once escaped.
Audiard is known from A Prophet (2009), which has been called France’s answer to The Godfather (1972). A Prophet is a thrilling and captivating prison drama of an Arab who becomes the new kingpin. The film was France’s nominee for an Oscar in 2010.
In Dheepan, Audiard chooses a more real-life approach: the story is according to the lead actor, Antonythasan, 50 per cent autobiographical. He succeeds, indeed; at times the film transforms the feeling of a mere spectator to a participant – your eyes are glued to the screen and you barely remember to breathe.
Antonythasan, unknown in the West but famous in Sri Lanka as an author and actor, is an ex-boy soldier, a real-life refugee who in the early ’90s escaped war and refugee camps to France, with his brother and sister, carrying fake passports in their pockets.
For Srinivasan, Dheepan is her first film. With a background in theatre, she left her corporate career to become an actor. A wise move, if you ask me.
Dheepan won the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
It also won a permanent place in my heart.
Dheepan opens in cinemas October 23.