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L'Europe est mort, vive l'Europe!
Rightly so, Lioret's film 'Welcome' confronts us with a changing Europe, from one which used to be tolerant to the less-fortunate into one dominated by fear, exclusion and self-righteousness. The anonymous setting of the port of Calais - exchangeable with Dover, Bari or Tarifa or any other border town in Europe and the hauntingly introvert piano score add to the growing hostilities towards refugees in Europe. The two main characters are, each in their own way, equally tragic: Bilal, a 17-year-old refugee from Kurdistan, in desperately pursuing an impossible dream, and Simon, a disappointed middle-aged French swimming instructor, in not being able to cling onto that dream. The friendship and the actual drama begin when they first meet in a local pool. So far so good. Regrettably, and perhaps regrettably, Lioret diminishes the intensity of this relationship by wanting to provide too many answers to too many irrelevant questions. The result is that story lines, actions and ultimately even the characters become blurred and incredible, which is a great sorrow to inflict on a topic of this social magnitude. One only wishes a little more Dardenne-style type of filming in this film! The strength of 'Welcome' is that is requires us to reconsider to what extent we are willing to be human, social and forgiving towards 'the other' in an ever-harshening world. By examining the attitudes of the shop manager, the neighbour and the bureaucrat, we are eventually confronted with ourselves. 'Welcome' is certainly not an easy film but a highly desirable one.