• Film

Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: Dheepan (France)

Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.

They don’t know each other. But to escape Sri Lanka, their country ravaged by the civil war and in hopes of starting a better life, Dheepan, a former solder and Tamil Tiger (a formidable Anthonythasan Jesuthasan, himself an ex-Tiger), Yalini, a young woman (luminous Kalieaswari Srinivajan) and a little girl pose as a family to obtain their political refugee status. Ending up in France, the trio moves to a housing project in a Paris suburb. While trying to adapt and blend in their new environment, attempting to rebuild a home for themselves, they come to realize the area is crime ridden with drug trafficking, gang activities and ruled by violence. Dheepan is suddenly confronted to his worst nightmare, the realization he has left one hell for another. One war for another one, this time in the urban jungle. But beware of waking up a sleeping tiger, especially a Tamil one like Dheepan, who soon will see no other issue than to reluctantly take action with unsuspected consequences.

After The Prophet and Rust and Bone, French director Jacques Audiard’s seventh opus offers another portrait of conflicted souls, fractured lives and quest for acceptance. Infused with the subliminal message that, no matter where you are, violence is often the only universal language. But he avoids making Dheepan a one dimensional Charles Bronson-like vigilante or a helpless victim. Showing instead the ambivalence, the doubts of a man who desperately wants to change and forget his past, not unlike Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider or Viggo Mortensen in History of Violence…The only way for Dheepan to save himself and his “family” is to become again the wild animal he once was, barbarian and ruthless.

Surprise winner of a somewhat controversial Palme d’Or at the last Cannes Film Festival, Dheepan was criticized by some who saw too simplistic a portrayal of urban violence and an ambiguous London-set happy-ending. But Audiard insists Dheepan is not a political statement. “I wanted to explore an unknown territory for me as a filmmaker, he says. And to shake things up while dealing with a foreign tongue, almost entirely filming in Tamil, working with mostly non professional actors and ask what it means to get along in our society today and at what cost”

Jean-Paul Chaillet