Magnificent7 – Asylum Seekers

Take a look at the photo. The young woman leaning forward is Caroline. She is a social worker at a reception centre for asylum seekers in a municipality of Paris. The woman with her back to the camera is Zaleh, she is Sudanese, pregnant, and has come for help. Caroline is good at her job – from a bureaucratic point of view, but when it comes to deal with the asylum seekers as human beings, she has no idea.

”The Arrivals”, by French couple Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard, awarded with the Golden Dove at DOKLeipzig 2009, is an impressive and masterly done direct cinema documentary about the European political and social problem number one: Immigration. In this case told through the observation of people on each side of the desk – the seekers and the helpers. Apart from a couple of small tours in the streets of Paris, the scenes in the film are all shot inside the small offices of the centre or in the bigger room, where the first registration takes place. The characters are Ethiopians, Mongolians, Sudanese, Sri Lankese… and then there is Caroline and Colette, who is the motherly social worker, who is constantly over budget but finds her ways to solution.

It is touching, you laugh and you cry, and you think while you are watching one humiliating moment after the other. At an excellent session the two French filmmakers invited the audience to get an insight to methods of filming and reflections on the profession of being a documentarian. The camera was integrated in the room, they never forgot that they were filmed, and we did not want them too, said Chagnard. At the beginning – the first out of 4 months of shooting – we lost the power, we were too quick and they did not really trust us, but gradually we achieved our ”authorisation intérieure”, which is the most important, because when you have that, the reality organises itself, and you have the patience and the courage to wait. This is an important humanistic, creative document about a European reality, that could be everywhere where people come and aim at a better life than the one they had. And it shows the strength of the observational style combined with time and cinematographic skills.

France, 2009, 111 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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