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Welcome (I) (2009)

 |  Drama  |  11 March 2009 (France)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,520 users   Metascore: 61/100
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Bilal is 17 years old, a Kurdish boy from Iraq. He sets off on an adventure-filled journey across Europe. He wants to get to England to see his love who lives there. Bilal finally reaches ... See full summary »



(original scenario), (original scenario), 3 more credits »
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14 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Simon Calmat
Firat Ayverdi ...
Marion Calmat
Derya Ayverdi ...
Thierry Godard ...
Selim Akgul ...
Zoran (as Selim Akgül)
Firat Çelik ...
Murat Subasi ...
Lieutenant Caratini
Yannick Renier ...
Mouafaq Rushdie ...
Le père de Mina
La mère de Mina (as Behi Djanati Ataï)
Patrick Ligardes ...
Le voisin de Simon
Jean-Pol Brissart ...
Le juge
Blandine Pélissier ...
La juge aux affaires familiales


Bilal is 17 years old, a Kurdish boy from Iraq. He sets off on an adventure-filled journey across Europe. He wants to get to England to see his love who lives there. Bilal finally reaches Calais, but how do you cover 32 kilometers of the English Channel when you can't swim? The boy soon discovers that his trip won't be as easy as he imagined... The community of struggling illegal aliens in Calais is captured with authenticity, from the point of view of people who arrived there knowing nothing about France. This immigrant drama, with wonderful performances by the actors, is a strong story which uses documentary austerity and minimalist style to create a great emotional impact. Written by Warsaw Film Festival

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

11 March 2009 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Bem-Vindo  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$6,528 (USA) (7 May 2010)


$13,461 (USA) (14 May 2010)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The neighbor of Simon who rats him out to the police, has a doormat with the word 'Welcome' printed on it. See more »


When Simon finds Mina in London, in the background is a sign for "Elephant and Castle Shopping Center" - in British English, the spelling "centre" would be used. See more »


Marion Calmat: Know what barring people from shops means? Want me to buy you a history-book?
See more »


Spoofed in Chashme Baddoor (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

Romeo and Juliet, across the Channel
2 March 2010 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

Illegal immigration is the subject of this ironically titled film. But whatever generalizations it has to make are embodied in beautifully realized and touching characters and a specific story, which combines one of France's ablest and most experienced actors, Vincent Lindon, with a young Kurdish newcomer, Firat Ayverdi. Ayverdi plays the role of Bilal, a 17-year-old Iraq-born Kurd who needs to get from France to England to meet his sweetheart.

Welcome begins with an intense focus on the border crossers Bilal is with. He has come a long way on his own, hanging under railway cars. Here he learns that won't work because the trains go too fast. He has to pay a handler to be hidden with others in a cargo truck. Images of the border lit up at night at the huge interchange near Calais, with dozens of huge cargo trucks slowly moving back and forth, are both beautiful and terrifying, reminiscent of the opening sequence of Arnaud des Pallières' Adieu. The sense of being at the mercy of vast forces is overwhelming. The cargo truck escape attempt fails both for Bilal and for the group of other young Kurds with him because Bilal can't stand to keep a plastic bag over his head during the customs inspection to avoid setting off the carbon dioxide detectors. He's held and released in Calais with the others, in legal limbo, with nowhere to stay, caught in the "jungle" of other illegals hoping to get to England.

Bilal, we gradually learn, is an excellent athlete and has now decided to try to go it alone and swim the channel. He begins visiting the municipal swimming pool, where he pays Simon (Lindon), a swim coach, to teach him how to do the crawl and train for a long swim. Their interchanges are made rough and simple by the fact that Bilal speaks no French and Simon's English is limited. Simon is lonely and stressed out because his wife Marion (a soulful Audrey Dana) has left him. He also feels useless because a promising career as a competitive swimmer stopped short years ago, leaving him with this mediocre job. Locally the immigrants wandering in legal limbo are looked down on, and you can get harassed by police and subject to legal action for in any way helping them. There is an executive officer in the local constabulary specifically charged with seeing that these rules are enforced. Simon shares the general indifference to the young illegals' plight, but takes a liking to the bright-eyed, highly motivated Bilal, and soon realizes what his training goal is.

Marion runs an on-the-street soup kitchen that helps the illegals. She obviously sympathizes with them and for doing so is harassed by cops herself. After taking in Bilal and a friend for a night early on, Simon gradually warms to their plight and also realizes that his actions may make Marion look on him more favorably. He is soon hassled by police due to a nasty neighbor who rats on him. But this only strengthens his resolve to help the boy and draws them closer. Meanwhile Lioret seamlessly deepens our understanding of Bilal with a swift succession of understated scenes. The youth was a soccer champion and runner back home and dreams of trying out for Manchester United. His girlfriend Mina (Derya Ayverdi) is with her family in London, who are in the restaurant business. Her father disapproves of her relationship with Bilal and an arranged marriage with somebody else is in the offing. Simon continues to be impressed by Bilal's single-minded devotion. Bilal and Mina are like Romeo and Juliet, separated by the English Channel.

Bilal is making great progress in the pool, but his situation otherwise continues to be extremely dicey. Mina can rarely speak to him on the phone and he's mostly on the street with other Kurds, one of whom is out to get him for causing them to be caught in the truck. Things get better between Marion and Simon but more and more urgent for Bilal, who's now trying longer swims in the Channel itself wearing a wet suit. News comes that Mina is to be married off shortly. She sends a despairing message to Bilal that it's hopeless and he should not try to come. It's winter and Simon urges him not to try now, that it's too dangerous, and he should seek a way to remain in France legally. Lindon is typically subtle and convincing as a man in crisis drawn out of himself. Firat Ayverdi is an understated player with a strong natural presence.

The final scenes of Welcome are deeply touching. I never thought seeing Manchester United on a TV screen could make me cry. This is a strong, vivid little film that tells its story with deft strokes and authentic atmosphere. The ideas of swimming the Channel, the star-crossed lovers, and the emotionally stressed grown-up who finds a sense of values through a youth are simple and standard enough, but Lioret's film-making and the acting are so good it all works, and the script by Lioret, Olivier Adam and Emmanuel Courcol is idiomatic and natural. The injustice and confusion of immigration policies are made extremely clear without ever resorting to a single moment of generalization.

Welcome opened in Paris on March 11, 2009 to universal critical acclaim. Its critics rating on Allociné is 3.3 with a score of 88 points. The film won the Lumière Award for Best film; one César nomination (Best Cinematography) and two awards at Berlin. It was shown in March 2010 as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the series sponsored jointly by uniFrance and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and shown to the public at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center, New York. Lioret's previous film, Don't Worry, I'm Fine/Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas, was included in the Rendez-Vous series in 2007.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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