Dheepan has been hailed as a “timely, powerful look at the modern immigration experience in Europe.” It tells the story of Sivadhasan, a Tamil Tiger, during the Sri Lankan Civil War — a war the Tamil Tigers lost. After heading to a refugee camp, Sivadhasan decides to claim asylum in France. To do so, he needs a convincing cover. Human traffickers have the passports of a dead family available, so Sidavhasan sets out to pose as the deceased husband, Dheepan, while joining strangers Illayaal and Yalini, who pose as his wife and young daughter.
Arriving in Paris, Sidavhasan gets gainful employment as a caretaker in a poverty-stricken housing complex. The complex is a meeting place for drug dealers, bringing up past trauma and culminating in a last stand against gangsters. The movie deals with the three Sri Lankans enormity as refugees of dealing with both a new country and gangster culture.
An intriguing aspect is the casting of actor Anthonythasan Jesuthasan as Dheepan/Sidavhasan. Jesuthasan is a Sri Lankan actor and author who fled the country when he was 19 after being a child soldier for the Tamil Tigers group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He became disillusioned with the LTTE and ended up in Hong Kong. From there he claimed political asylum in France after obtaining a fake passport to enter the country. Since then, Jesuthasan has written an autobiography based on his time as a child soldier and a second novel about the massacre of political prisoners in Sri Lanka in 1983. In Jesuthasan, director Jacques Audiard found a capable actor who helped ensure accuracy in the portrayal of Sri Lankan refugees.
The film, “offers characters from violent backgrounds, where they have done horrible things, and plots that involve searing acts of redemption or salvation … and is finely-drawn, beautifully shot and acted, featuring complex characters doing their best in no win situations,” writes Sheila O’Malley of rogerebert.com. “The living, the dying, and the dead populate this superb French thriller balancing gang violence, refugee plight and family drama,” says the Minneapolis Times Tribune. Some reviewers have noted that the intense violence and crime drama are at odds with French realistic portrayals of poverty and mixed communities in France, but the film is an act of fiction and utilizes the situations to illustrate the difficulties faced by the characters,
With several international wins and many more nominations in film festivals, Dheepan is an exciting addition to the Revelstoke Performing Arts Center’s Movies in the Mountains.
Dheepan, March 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre on 1007 Vernon Avenue.
Tickets $8, Three Film Pass $20, Six Film Pass $30