In hindsight a comedy that treats a social wrong with a degree of compassion
Rummaging through the rows upon rows of films in a video shop, my eyes fell on the Bouchaala's 'Made In France,' winner for the Best Film' at the Avigon New York Festival in 2001. At a time when immigration is on the lips of politicians and a flood of Syrians, Afghans, South Asians and sub-Saharan Africans are streaming into Europe for safety and a better life,'Made in France' takes on a darker coloring. And then there is the three star cast; the beautiful Israeli of Moroccan ancestry Ronit Elkabets (Samia), who last year overwhelmed us as Vivian Amselm in 'The Gett', the talented Atmen Kelif (Youssef), a French comedian of Algerian background, and Patrick Ligardes (Patrick the punch bag whom life never gives a break). 'Made in France' is first of all a road film, a genre in which the three main characters are on the run. And this is hook of the film. The Bouchaala's script treats the social problems of identity and the aftermath of a colonial empire in the Mother country through badly absorbing its 'natives' that have settled there. Patrick tarted up as a street walker for a masquerade party suffers another slap from life by being rounded up by the police with false papers of a transvestite Algerian prostitute who stole his purse with his proper identification. Taken for Zoubeida who is wanted for petty crimes, the bearer of a list of false identities, and overstaying her welcome in France, a judge condemns Patrick to deportation to Algeria. By a series of mishaps, he cannot reach his girlfriend. He does have a court appointed lawyer, but like most court appointed lawyers, he thinks his client guilty. And so, Patrick along with Sami and Youssef are sent off to the airport for a plane to Algeria. Youssef is undocumented, having come to France as a child; he is French by education and culturally; he speaks no Arabic,although Muslim, he doesn't know even how to pray. And Samia, well effeminate and abused from childhood, seeks life as a woman. What makes the plot more tangier, yet complicated, Patrick is the alleged murder of four transvestites, the last being Zoubeida who stole is papers. So, the three flee. During their flight to Geneva where Samia wants to go (for a sex change?), they 'find themselves' as friends and a 'community' of shared social ostracism. In the end, the authorities drop charges against Patrick for false arrest, but what about the other two? Well, they go off on a motorcycle to continue the journey that begin as friends and 'family'. The issues 'Made in France' tackle are serious indeed, but the film sags under that weight. And as mentioned in the beginning of this review, undocumented immigration, transgender and sexual violence are very much in the news today. And society is left holding the bag of how to assimilate the newcomers into a country that is changing by the minute culturally, historically and socially. Such issues can be political dynamite if not handled properly. Through a freak accident, the three escape and in a w
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