Tough yet intimate study of the immigration maze

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The alienating isolationism of the immigration debate’ is the context for this Kafka-esque tale of Paris-based Senegalese student El Hadj (Djolof Mbengue), and how an innocuous lapse on his visa thrusts him into a cycle of detention centres, court appearances and deportation proceedings.

Not quite as keen to eviscerate the state apparatus as the likes of Michael Winterbottom’s In This World, debut director Alain Gomis instead focuses on his tortured protagonist, shooting his expressive face in oppressive close-up while the intransigent Western World hovers uneasily behind. Mbengue, for his part, clearly relishes El Hadj’s transition from a naive espouser of post-colonial theory to a spirit-broken statistic, cracking his fists in rage against a shower wall.

The scenes with El Hadj’s Parisian girlfriend and the repetitive discussions on the nature of national identity become tiresome, but Gomis and Mbengue are generally skilful enough to fix a tough subject with a hefty emotional hook.


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