Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’, about Sri Lankan Tamils in France, is a story of immigration in more ways than one

Posted on August 22, 2020


Antonythasan Jesuthasan, who plays Dheepan, was actually a soldier for the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war, who fled during a ceasefire and sought political asylum in France.

At first, Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan — winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival – appears to be a straightforward document of the immigrant experience. Take the scene where Dheepan is interrogated by a French officer in what seems to be the naturalisation department. Dheepan is from Sri Lanka. He was a Tamil tiger. He left the island nation with his “wife” (Yazhini) and “daughter” (Ilaiyaal) and came to France, seeking asylum — and that’s why he’s being interrogated by this officer. Before emigrating, Dheepan, Yazhini and Ilaiyaal had no idea of each others’ existence. They are a makeshift family, which makes Dheepan an immigrant saga in another way, too: how these three people cross the “borders” of their individual existence and move to a state of communal living.

This scene with the French officer makes you smile. He asks Dheepan to explain how and why he left Sri Lanka. Dheepan says he was a journalist, a peace activist who worked for an NGO. The government made things difficult for him, and… The translator seated next to Dheepan cuts him off. He’s heard this story a hundred times before from other Sri Lankans asking for refuge, which means it’s likely the French officer has heard this story a hundred times before, too. The translator asks Dheepan, “Did your smuggler sell you that story? What side were you on in the war?” It’s not that he isn’t sympathetic. He wants Dheepan to make a stronger case. So Dheepan says he was forced to join the Tigers, and the Sri Lankan army captured and tortured him…

Read the rest of this article here: https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/jacques-audiards-dheepan-about-sri-lankan-tamils-in-france-is-a-story-of-immigration-in-more-ways-than-one-8741041.html

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