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La forteresse

Léopard d'or Cinéastes du présent Locarno 2008

La forteresse

CH 2008 101'

Director: Fernand Melgar
Script: Fernand Melgar, Alice Sala, Claude Muret
Camera: Camille Cottagnoud
Sound: Marc von Stürler
Editing:: Karine Sudan
Production:: Climage

Fernand Melgar 2008 101'

THE FORTRESS is an immersion documentary which, without any comment or interview, will observe the operation of a Swiss centre where asylum seekers are received and selected. It will not focus on asylum seekers but on the workers. Over a period of 60 days, three viewpoints will be exposed: the FOM's, which is in charge of selecting the asylum seekers, the staff's, who in charge of maintenance and, finally, the chaplaincy's.

The issue of asylum in Europe has already been covered a great deal. All reports focused on the inhumanity of governments or the hostility of local residents towards refugees. The question in this film is not whether refugees can still be accepted. In view of the recent vote in this respect, any battle in favour of asylum seems to be a lost cause. Europe and Switzerland have shut their borders to any new immigration wave, whatever its reason or origin. Based on this pessimistic survey, I want to understand how one can morally cope with sending people back to their misery.

Which selection criteria are applied to still admit a lucky few to Switzerland? Are there “good” and “bad” refugees? The official in charge of the evaluation has no easy task: he knows that behind every human being he assesses there is a tragedy. The refusal pronounced in front of the interested party will have serious consequences for him and often for his family too. Which are his moral dilemmas? How do the employees of the centre, who are often also foreigners, experience their uncomfortable role of intermediary? How do they view asylum seekers? Is it sufficient to have common sense to carry out tasks such as nursing the sick or lending psychological support to heavily traumatised people?

What about the moribund Church? As a main defender of asylum, has it not seen its mission among mankind renewed? How does one share one's faith with other religions? How far can a chaplain go to help his fellow men? Is reason compatible with heart and faith?

These different focal points will all complement one another. Sometimes they will clash, but they will always take a stand as regards the complexity of the refugee status. On a more general note, this film will raise the question about selective immigration in Europe today. The human stakes involved in this microcosm will reveal the confrontation between the world of the affluent, between the world of those who “cannot accommodate the misery of the entire world”, and between the world of the damned on this earth.