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Silent Bilingualism in Olivier Masset-Depasse’s film Illégal

Anna Dimitrova

Résumés

Cet article porte sur la synergie entre le bilinguisme et le silence, une caractéristique jusqu’ici inexplorée du film Illégal (2010) d’Olivier Masset-Depasse. Illégal examine le parcours d’une criminelle, une immigrée clandestine, et son interaction avec les autorités alors qu’elle se trouve dans un centre de détention contemporain, un appareil répressif d’État (Althusser). L’analyse démontre que les zones de contact modernes n’ont pas de frontières visibles, mais que leurs appareils répressifs d’État fonctionnent comme un mécanisme du pouvoir de l’État et une barrière contre les nouveaux venus. La protagoniste n’a pas de profil racial et possède des compétences linguistiques supérieures. Néanmoins, elle est traitée avec une extrême dureté par les autorités. Dans cette perspective, l’essai montre que ce n’est ni la langue ni la race qui déclenche la violence d’exclusion des immigrants de leurs pays de refuge. C’est plutôt l’altérité des nouveaux venus que les appareils répressifs d’État ne peuvent accepter.

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  • 1 Giorgio Agamben and Michael Rocke, “We Refugees”, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatu (...)

1“The paradox here is that precisely the figure that should have incarnated the rights of man par excellence, the refugee, constitutes instead the radical crisis of this concept1.”
We Refugees, Agamben, Giorgio, Rocke, Michael

  • 2 Mary-Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 2nd edition (New York: Routl (...)
  • 3 Anna Dimitrova, “Impasse in Multilingual Spaces: Politics of Language and Identity in Contemporary (...)

2The world today is shaped by the migration and displacement of people, two phenomena that result from, and create zones of, cultural, political, and economic conflict. At the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, Western European countries have become zones of refuge for various newcomers. Many theorists, such as Edward Saïd and Homi Bhabha, have analyzed the relations between the established dominant culture and the cultures of diasporic migrants who enter a new space. This paper builds on Mary Louise Pratt’s research on cultural conflicts in shared spaces that she terms “contact zones,” In her book Imperial Eyes (1992), Pratt describes these contact zones as spaces “where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations”2. While Pratt primarily studies Latin America, her concept of contact zones has been applied to other postcolonial and neocolonial contexts and, recently, additional scholars (e.g. Ellen Berry and Mikhail Epstein, Aihva Ong, Sheila Petty, Randall Halle) elaborated on the notion of present-day zones where cultures meet and clash3. In this essay, Pratt’s concept of contact zones is applied to the Belgian society that functions as a contemporary Francophone contact zone.

  • 4 Althusser describes two forms of state power: repressive state apparatuses (RSA) that function thro (...)

3One of the emblematic figures of today’s Francophone contact zone is the migrant newcomer. In most cases, newcomers bring different languages to the shared space they enter and, thus, multifaceted, multilingual conversations emerge. For migrants in contemporary Francophone contact zones, the use of the dominant culture’s language (French) plays a crucial role for survival. Communicating through the language of the local citizens increases both the chances of being accepted into the host state and success when dealing with its institutions. The film, Illégal (2010) by Belgian film director Olivier Masset-Depasse, represents the struggles of an illegal immigrant with superior language skills who wishes to stay in her adopted country of refuge. This is a tale of a mother who fights the State machine in order to reunite with her son. In my analysis, I use the theoretical work of French philosopher and political theorist Louis Althusser and his term Repressive State Apparatuses (RSA), to refer to the representation of the law enforcement and prison system in the film4.

  • 5 Kenneth Rapoza, “Here’s Why Europe Really Needs More Immigrants”, Forbes, accessed May 31, 2018, ht (...)

4Due to the intense postcolonial changes in the 20th century, within the Francophone context, many artistic works explore the difficult adaptation of a newcomer from African origin (e.g. the novel Le petit prince de Belleville (1992) by Calixthe Beyala). From this perspective, the protagonist in Illégal is different; she is a newcomer from European descent and blends perfectly into Belgian society. In her case, her superb linguistic abilities are an important indicator of successful integration in the host society. High proficiency of the host country’s language (French, in this case), together with successful employment and adherence to the established social norms, would therefore, be an indication that the newcomer has integrated into the host society and, in essence, is a legal immigrant. At least, we assume that this person would receive fair treatment by the RSA and expect a positive outcome of interactions with state institutions. The intent of the immigration laws is that those who integrate into the contact zone and contribute to society should be legal (indeed encouraged) in the case of low-birth European continent5. Illégal examines the path of a lawbreaker, an illegal immigrant, and her interaction with the authorities while in a detention center (a contemporary prison). The cinematographic representation depicts the prison as a contemporary RSA, an apparatus of repression in the contact zones of Belgium. However, the prison does not represent the host society’s values. The film successfully illustrates the contradiction between the values of the society in Belgium, and the methods of enforcing the immigration laws. It demonstrates that the RSA and its methods do not serve the society at large. The spirit and the letter of the law are misaligned, depicting the RSA as an institution determined to strictly follow the letter of the law in complete disregard of its spirit.

  • 6 Aurore Engelen, “Illégal” (Cineuropa, August 24, 2010), http://www.cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/1495 (...)
  • 7 Manohla Dargis, “A Woman With a Son, but Not a Country”, The New York Times, March 24, 2011.
  • 8 https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0557267/awards?ref_=nm_awd

5Illégal, written and directed by Belgian filmmaker Olivier Masset-Depasse is his second feature. Before working on Illégal, Masset-Depasse was already known for his award-wining short films Chambre froide (2000) and Dans l’ombre (2004), and his first feature film Cages (2006). The film was produced by Versus (Belgium), in co-production with Luxembourg’s Iris, France’s Dharamsala and Flanders’ Prime Time production companies. Sold by Films Distribution, Illégal has been distributed by Haut et Court in France, and O’Brother in Belgium6. According to the CBO-Box Office site, in the first week after the film release on October 13, 2010, 6696 viewers saw the film in Paris and 17 575 viewers saw it throughout France. Illégal’s artistic team included Director of Photography Tommaso Fiorilli, and the composers André Dziezuk and Marc Mergen. The film was edited by Damien Keyeux; Patrick Dechesne and Alain-Pascal Housiaux contributed to the mise en scene; and Magdalena Labuz was in charge of the costumes7. In 2010, Illégal was screened at the Directors’ Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) at Cannes Film Festival and won the SACD Prize. The same year, it also won “Best Feature” at Jerusalem Film Festival and “Best Director Prize” at Warsaw International Festival8.

  • 9 Critics’ Talk #4: Olivier Masset-Depasse (International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2011), https://www (...)
  • 10 Valerio Caruso, LUX Prize 2010 - Olivier Masset-Depasse - Director, Illegal, accessed May 21, 2018, (...)
  • 11 “I started a year-long investigation with a journalist from the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir and (...)
  • 12 “Pour ne pas être manichéen ou tomber dans le film de gauchiste, je le voulais documenté, réaliste, (...)

6The plot unfolds chronologically and follows the ordeals of a single mother from Russia, Tania, who has been a French teacher before immigrating to Belgium. Tania and her son Ivan live as illegals in Molenbeek, Belgium (a poor neighborhood that, sadly, became well known after being linked to terrorist attacks in 2015). The story is shot in existing locations in Wallonia. Some scenes are filmed in impoverished neighborhoods in Liège, while others are shot at its Bierset airport. The Hermalle-sous-Huy detention Center located in Engis, a Walloon municipality, provides the setting for the protagonist’s prison time. The film’s release sparked a great interest in the Center’s behind the scenes work. In 2011, in an interview at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, Masset-Depasse explained that the film is based on years of research9. Working with a journalist from “Le Soir” and a Belgian Human Rights lawyer, it took six months to obtain permission to enter the detention center10. All characters (e.g. inmates and wardens) are representations of real-life characters that Masset-Depasse interviewed during his visits to the Belgian prison system11. Masset-Depasse explains that he wanted the film to be realistic and well-researched: everything in the film has happened at least once in real life and derives from the spirit of human rights12. Tania journey’s is inspired by the paths of several single mothers who arrived in Belgium from Russia.

  • 13 Mireille Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal: How to Narrate Silence and Horror”, SubStance (...)

7Contrary to the racially profiled immigrant in the European context, Masset-Depasse wanted his main character to reflect a European audience and so chose a non-Russian actress. The protagonist, Tania, is played by Belgian actress Anne Coesens whose native language is French. Her accent, vocabulary, and register when speaking French contribute to her blending in at work and in Belgian society. Through this choice, the director creates a character who has irreproachable French and who fits linguistically and culturally into the Francophone contact zone. Tania willingly accepts the host country’s “dictatorship of the language” and visibly behaves as one of the citizens of her country of refuge. Moreover, she relies on her perfect French to avoid detection. Recently, Mireille Rosello has argued that, “In European urban centers – regardless of whether we speak as refugees, to refugees, or about refugees – complex transnational dialogues emerge. They often occur between people who do not speak the same language and who have neither the same history nor culture, but still want to or have to share the here and now13.” Illégal tells an opposite story. The protagonist willingly adopts the culture of the host space and speaks its language fluently. She is completely integrated into the society with her hardworking, helpful and pleasant personality. To the viewer, she is an acceptable newcomer. She is, however, lawbreaker according to the letter of the law.

8The film’s title, poster, and trailer set the expectation for illegal activity, however, the story is an emotional one of a single mother’s journey and her battle against the rigid system of immigration laws. Due to the constant mental pressure and physical violence, the film is a combination of psychological thriller and intense melodrama. Suspense and psychological intimidation are suggested by the opening black frame that indicates the time of the story, October 2000. It becomes clear that Tania’s request for permanent residence is denied and that there is a letter announcing “Décision de refus de séjour avec ordre de quitter le territoire [Permanent residence denied, order for immediate expulsion].” The letter by itself is an order for “immediate expulsion” and is the only piece of information mentioning the protagonist’s real identity, Mlle Tatiana Zimina. The storyline has a short prologue (about three minutes long) that condenses a relatively long period between 2000 and 2008 when Tania and her six-year old son Ivan (Milo Masset-Depasse) live in Belgium undetected by the authorities. The prologue seemingly displays ordinary everyday actions. Tania is returning home, talking with her Russian babysitter, then reading a letter from the state authorities. The background music creates suspense and implies that the protagonist is in trouble and can be harmed. According to the letter/order, Tania is supposed to go back to Russia but, instead, she burns her fingertips to avoid future identification. Although burning her fingerprints is an act of extreme violence, it is also a voluntary act that erases her identity. From this point on, only Tania can tell her story, yet her silence maintains her identity secret.

  • 14 Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vint (...)

9Speaking a foreign language in a contact zone is an obvious mark of otherness and Tania’s sense that using a non-French language would bring trouble is justified. Two men standing where mother and son exit the bus are merely an insignificant detail in the frame, but, upon hearing a foreign language, they stop Tania and Ivan for an identity check. It turns out that they are Belgian agents. In a dramatic street scene, Tania orders Ivan to run away with the false papers so the agents cannot identify them. The scene evokes Foucauldian panopticism, giving the impression that citizens are constantly monitored14.

  • 15 Agamben and Rocke, “We Refugees,” 3.

10Naturally, the detention “Center for women and families” where Tania is held is akin to a contemporary prison. Tania’s incarceration (about 43 days of narrative time) takes up most of the film, approximately 76 minutes of the story’s 90 minutes. The prison’s omnipresent violence is presented by the visuals. Locked up windows and small shared rooms depict the claustrophobic setting of the Center. The inmates move in narrow corridors. The prison shocks with its rectangular forms, dark colors and closed spaces. The claustrophobic spaces imply the severity of the situation and the law. The colors, in the range of gray, blue and black, convey coldness and brutality. The lighting is scarce, but the feeling of constantly being watched is palpable. The inside of the prison functions as a contemporary panopticon system - surveillance cameras are everywhere, showing inmates on screens, moving them through metal detectors. Scratchings and drawings on the cell walls convey the mental anguish of the prison where beating, body-cavity searches and suicides are part of everyday life. From a broader theoretical perspective, the detention center in Belgium can be perceived as a natural consequence of earlier prisons and camps. Giorgio Agamben and Michael Rocke point out that, “[i]t would be well not to forget that the first camps in Europe were built as places to control refugees, and that the progression internment camps, concentration camps, extermination camps represents a perfectly real filiation15”. According to French historian and philosopher Michel Foucault, the ultimate function of the prison as an institution is to punish and monitor delinquents. The detention center where Tania is held has an additional function. It is part of a politics of surveillance, providing identification to individuals as well as regulating their movements, but it also helps to expel intruders from contact zones (in this case, Belgium). The psychological tension of the closed space is emphasized by Tania’s three attempts to escape. All her efforts end in failure, indicating the facility’s close surveillance and control. The somber mise en scene reminds one of the naturalistic approaches of the Dardenne brothers. The sophisticated work of a hand-held camera follows Tania through the maze of corridors and rules. In most cases, the camera is so close to her face that we witness her ordeal from her eyes. Often, Tania moves in a labyrinth of passages, observing the building through double metal fences. In addition, the presence of children of various ages who are incarcerated with their parents produces a strong psychologically impact on the viewers.

  • 16 ElaN Languages, ElaNFilmavonden - Illégal, accessed June 4, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L (...)

11Both the exploration of a pertinent social topic and the documentary approach imply influence of the Dardenne brothers. Illégal reminds one of their films Le silence de Lorna (2008), produced only two years earlier. The protagonists in both films are Eastern European women who speak French well. Both women rely on their silence to survive in Belgium. In contrast to the Dardenne brothers’ film, the action in Illégal unfolds mostly in the closed space of the prison between fences and metal walls. In an interview during the Cannes Festival, Masset-Depasse points out additional dissimilarity between the Dradenne brothers’ approach and his style. He explains that there is an Anglo-Saxon logic in the film’s 1600 shot-sequence and that he is influenced by the art of filmmakers such as Michael Winterbottom, Paul Greengrass and Alejandro González Iñárritu16. Masset-Deppase’s visuals in Illégal parallel with the sound and produce a strong emotional response. The diegetic sounds of metal closing doors and other barriers in the prison complement the sound of the opening of the film and the dramatic musical score by André Dziezuk and Marc Mergen. The song “Soldier on” by Temper Trap conveys the painful hope for a better turn of events after Tania successfully avoids the first attempt for her deportation.

  • 17 I define the term bilingualism to mean the ability of an individual to speak two languages and/or t (...)
  • 18 When entering home Tania speaks Russian with the babysitter of her son, but she speaks French with (...)
  • 19 - Мам, я тебя никогда с мужиком не видел. [Mom, I never saw you with a man.]
    - Vanya en français! [ (...)

12The film is an example of the dangers of bilingualism17. An individual is free to communicate in any foreign language but has to bear the consequences. Although the main characters speak both French and Russian, the story requires the use of only one language at a time and not a mixture of both. The question of using French versus Russian is raised in the prologue of the film. In 2000, the six year old Ivan is learning French and Tania tells him to speak in French only18. The very same point is made again, eight years later, when Tania and the teenage Ivan (played by Alexandre Gontcharov) commute in a city bus. In a playful way, Ivan tells his mother in Russian that he would like her to forget about her psychosis of constantly avoiding speaking Russian, at least on this particular day (because this is his birthday)19. The fact that Tania insists that Ivan avoids speaking Russian and the fact that Ivan refers to his mother’s aspiration as a “psychosis” reveal her constant fear of being recognized as an outsider in Belgium.

  • 20 Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal,” 6.
  • 21 Rosello, 17.
  • 22 I am using Althusser’s term of “interpellation”.

13Often, bilingualism appears when newcomers interact with state apparatuses such as the police, prisons and court systems and operates as a marker of a conflict. In addition, in this film, bilingualism teams up with silence. Bilingualism and silence are displayed by the protagonist’s high foreign language proficiency in French, and her ability to remain silent while in the grips of the prison. Rosello characterizes silence as “the inability to tell any story”20. For her, “[s]ilence is an absence, a form of passivity or inability”21. For me, silence can be ability rather than an inability. Silence is a conscious act of not disclosing information to shield the protagonist from the subjugation of the RSA. After Tania is caught, she is immediately interpellated as a foreign subject.22 However, she avoids being classified since the needed information remains buried in her silence. This shields Ivan from being identified as well. Tania’s silence prevents the authorities from potentially deporting them since their future destination depends on her identity. Her French connects her to Belgium and silence makes it impossible to associate her with any other state or region. Thus, the protagonist’s interactions with the RSA illustrate not only the role of language mastery by migrants, but also the role of silence as a protection against power structures.

  • 23 Most of the phone calls are shown at the moment she is making them. There are two phone conversatio (...)

14Tania speaks French only at the detention center and never uses Russian for communication even with other Russian speakers. While there, Tania’s connections to a diasporic community of people with a similar background (same language, culture or place of origin) are severed. A pay phone is her only connection to Ivan and her friend Zina (played by Olga Zhdanova). When she is not supervised by the interrogators, Tania places eight agonizing calls to them, all in Russian23. Thus, while in prison, the two languages, French and Russian, construct two separate spaces. The Belgian prison is a visible and interior space. Whereas the space outside the prison’s walls is an exterior space that is only audible; viewers do not see it. From this perspective, while in prison, the protagonist has two different identities: one related to a closed space and the French language, the other related to an open space and the Russian language. Tania’s silence connects the two spaces. It hinders Tania’s expulsion from the contact zone and is her only tool for navigating the pressures of the Repressive State Apparatus in its various forms and services. The language used by state agents serves as an additional psychological form of repressive violence against the inmates. At the detention center, Tania undergoes five interrogations by different police officers. The repetition of the questions, “nom, prénom, date de naissance, pays d’origine [name, surname, date of birth, country of origin]”, corresponds to the information needed to classify and distribute the inmates. The expression can be considered a signature phrase in the detention center since the required information, if provided, is a key for expulsing the newcomers from the territory the RSA oversees. Ironically, Tania has a lawyer appointed by the authorities that pressures her for the same information. The lawyer cannot find a way to help her and she, again, relies on her silence for protection against the regulations. The exchange between Tania and the lawyer encapsulates the impasse of her case. Tania says, “Mais, il y a toujours une chose! Faites votre boulot! [There is always a way! Do your job!]” The answer she receives, “[t]out est contre vous. [Everything is against you.]” validates the power hierarchy in the closed space of the prison and demonstrates how RSAs like detention centers operate in a contact zone.

  • 24 The difference between the status of Belarus, a former Soviet republic, and Russia is openly stated (...)
  • 25 “European Court of Human Rights - ECHR, CEDH, News, Information, Press Releases”, accessed October (...)
  • 26 Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal”, 20.

15Although Tania’s situation looks hopeless, her silence empowers her and, at the same time, it disempowers the authorities. Since her silence blocks the process of expulsion, the investigators upgrade their threats, stating that Tania will be sent to the tribunal if she remains silent. Desperate, Tania breaks her silence for first time and provides the needed information (nom, prénom, date de naissance, pays d’origine) by adopting her friend Zina’s identity who is from Belarus. The new information fills the gaps in her file, and she hopes that she will attain political asylum since Belarus is still considered a dictatorship by the European Union, whereas Russia after 1991 is not.24 However, breaking her silence in prison brings her additional troubles. It turns out that there is an existing record that Zina already applied for political asylum in Poland, and the case is automatically classified as a “Dublin case”. According to the European Court of Human Rights’ rules, this means that the case must be reviewed in the first state where the migrant or refugee has sought asylum. Since Zina has previously asked for asylum in Poland, according to the guidelines, Tania’s case must be reviewed in Poland. Thus, the process requires her deportation to Poland25. This development shows that the procedures function as a vicious circle, and any shared information only accelerates the expulsion process. Before having an identity in the eyes of the prison, Tania is marked as an unclassified number. When she chooses an identity by speaking, she is automatically classified and “reduced to a body” that needs to be expulsed away from the contact zone’s space26.

16Tania’s first unsuccessful deportation attempt is followed by a second violent one. She is put on a plane to Poland against her will. Right before her departure, Tania screams, in French, that she is not a criminal and that she is being forced to go to Poland while leaving her son behind: “Aidez-moi ! On veut me forcer à partir. Je vous en supplie, mon fils m’attend, mon fils a besoin de moi, s’il vous plaît ! Je ne suis pas un criminel, je vous en supplie ! [Help me! They are forcing me to leave. My son is waiting for me! My son needs me! I am not a criminal! Please!]” Since her capture by Belgian authorities, this scene is the only time and place when Tania tells her true story. Still, she does it in a few sentences and without statements that identify her. The passengers and crew of the plane, a miniature model of Belgian society, stand up against the violence inflicted on her and sabotage the deportation. At the end of the expulsion scene, all witnesses (passengers, crew and viewers) do not consider her as illegal. In fact, both passengers and viewers judge the RSA as illegal. The RSA representatives have gone out of their way to follow the letter of the law in blatant disregard of a common sense humanity and civility. The RSA, in this case, is indeed repressive. It does not serve the society; it serves its desire for power. The film succeeds in exposing this approach as invalid and illegal. The rest of the story proves this conclusion correct.

  • 27 European Convention of Human Rights. http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf
  • 28 Roger-Pol Droit, “Michel Foucault, on the Role of Prisons”, The New York Times on the Web, August 5 (...)

17In retribution, in the closed space of the police van, the police escort beats Tania severely. For a few seconds a black, soundless screen shows that she has lost consciousness. Formally, Tania’s treatment contradicts Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights that states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment27.” Tania’s story demonstrates that the rules that initiate expulsion are respected, but the ones that assure the migrants’ safety are not. The unconscious Tania is transported to a hospital. With a guard constantly watching outside of her room, the hospital comes to be another prison. The scene echoes Foucault’s question, “What is so astonishing about the fact that our prisons resemble our factories, schools, military bases, and hospitals all of which in turn resemble prisons28?” While in her hospital bed, Tania’s lawyer pays her a visit. This scene suggests a conversation, but her part in it is only silence. Later, Tania sneaks out of the hospital. She reaches her neighborhood and tearfully reunites with Ivan. The end of the film leaves many open questions concerning the refuge of contemporary migrants and the rules of host states.

  • 29 Nora Lee Mandel, “Reel Life: Flick Pix”, March 27, 2011, http://mavensnest.net/illegal.html.
  • 30 In an interview as one of the three finalists for LUX Prize in 2010, Masset-Depasse tells that ther (...)

18The film’s impact lies in the excellent acting by Anne Coesens and the realistic journey of the protagonist. Illégal illustrates that, while Repressive State Apparatuses do not allow integration of newcomers, the combination of linguistic proficiency and silence, defined as the ability to withhold a story selectively, can help one navigate through the repressive systems of the modern contact zones. Language proficiency and silence are, thus, two crucial, protective abilities while entering a new space. Tania understands that her mastery of the French language is insufficient. She expects that the RSA will follow the letter of the law. She fights with silence and she is ultimately successful. If, at the beginning of the film, its title Illégal suggests that the, thus far, legal status of Mlle Zimina would change to illegal, by its end we know that the title applies to the system that deals with the immigrants. As Nora Lee Mandel, a member of New York Film Critics Online and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists writes, “By providing a more extended, albeit exhaustingly depressing, view inside this too often hidden world, writer/director Olivier Masset-Depasse emotionally makes his case that the title refers to the system, not the individuals caught up in it29.” Thus, it is not surprising that Illégal’s success at film festivals provided additional venues for being seen by various audiences. Moreover, the film created political debates in many countries30. Tania’s personal path symbolizes the collective stories of contemporary migrants in Francophone and other contact zones.

  • 31 Will Higbee, “Hope and Indignation in Fortress Europe: Immigration and Neoliberal Globalization in (...)

19In my analysis, I have sought to show that the contact zones do not have visible borders, but their Repressive State Apparatuses, nevertheless, function as a mechanism of state power and a barrier against newcomers. By telling the story of one of the detention center’s subjects, Illégal gives an inside picture of how the existing immigration prison system works. In light of the recent emigrational movements between countries and continents, Will Higbee cites Etienne Balibar who points out that, “[w]hile migration, from east to west, may continue to flow from former French colonies to the former métropole (from North Africa to France, for instance), such migration is no longer entirely shaped by the colonial/postcolonial dynamic31.” Indeed, the film shows additional sides of the contemporary immigration process. The protagonist is not racially profiled and possesses a superior linguistic ability. Still, she is treated by the authorities with extreme harshness. From this perspective, the film illustrates that it is not the language, nor the race, that triggers severe reaction of exclusion of the immigrants from their adopted countries of refuge. Rather, it is the otherness of the newcomers that the RSAs cannot accept.

20Although this fictional narrative film is an outcome of the political and economic disassociation of the Eastern Block that happened at the end of the 20th century, the issues it raises are pertinent for other contexts. The recent migrations from zones of conflict such as Syria and the Middle East into Europe are creating additional contact zones in new political contexts where bilingualism, silence and cultural resistance can and will play a major role. Thus, these contemporary phenomena of displacement and movements between spaces and cultures, and their artistic representations, need to be studied and understood.

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Bibliographie

Giorgio Agamben and Michael Rocke, “We Refugees” Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures 49, no. 2 (June 1, 1995): 114-19.

Louis Althusser, “Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État” In Positions, 1964-1975, 79-137, Paris: Éditions sociales, 1976.

Valerio Caruso, LUX Prize 2010 - Olivier Masset-Depasse - Director, Illegal. Accessed May 21, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l7HPnv4Htc.

Critics’ Talk #4: Olivier Masset-Depasse. International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D3U-_2f_To.

Manohla Dargis, “A Woman With a Son, but Not a Country” The New York Times, March 24, 2011.

Anna Dimitrova, “Impasse in Multilingual Spaces: Politics of Language and Identity in Contemporary Francophone Contact Zones” University of Pittsburgh, 2017, http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/33530/.

Roger-Pol Droit, “Michel Foucault, on the Role of Prisons” The New York Times on the Web, August 5, 1975, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/17/specials/foucault-prisons.html.

ElaN Languages, ElaN Filmavonden - Illégal, Accessed June 4, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7-wVtPYv5U.

Aurore Engelen, “Illégal” Cineuropa, August 24, 2010, http://www.cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/149581/fmt/flv/.

“European Court of Human Rights - ECHR, CEDH, News, Information, Press Releases.” Accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=home.

Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

Will Higbee, “Hope and Indignation in Fortress Europe: Immigration and Neoliberal Globalization in Contemporary French Cinema”, Johns Hopkins University Press 43, no.1, no. 133 (2014): 26-43, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1353/sub.2014.0001.

Nora Lee Mandel, “Reel Life: Flick Pix”, March 27, 2011, http://mavensnest.net/illegal.html.

Olivier Masset-Depasse, Olivier Masset-Depasse director, Cineuropa, May 2010, http://www.cineuropa.org/en/video/148714/.

Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 2nd edition, New York: Routledge, 2007.

Kenneth Rapoza, “Here’s Why Europe Really Needs More Immigrants”, Forbes, Accessed May 31, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/08/15/heres-why-europe-really-needs-more-immigrants/.

Mireille Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal: How to Narrate Silence and Horror”, SubStance 43, no. 1 (2014): 13-25.

Frédéric de Vençay and Sébastien Schreurs, “Illégal - la critique”, Avoir Alire - Critiques et news films, BD, musique, séries TV, October 27, 2010, https://www.avoir-alire.com/illegal-la-critique.

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Notes

1 Giorgio Agamben and Michael Rocke, “We Refugees”, Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures 49, no. 2 (June 1, 1995): 114-19.

2 Mary-Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, 2nd edition (New York: Routledge, 2007), 7.

3 Anna Dimitrova, “Impasse in Multilingual Spaces: Politics of Language and Identity in Contemporary Francophone Contact Zones” (University of Pittsburgh, 2017), 3, http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/33530/.

4 Althusser describes two forms of state power: repressive state apparatuses (RSA) that function through violence and ideological state apparatuses (ISA) that function through ideology. According to him, “Tous les Appareils d’État fonctionnent à la fois à la répression et à l’idéologie, avec cette différence que l’Appareil (répressif) d’État fonctionne de façon massivement prévalente à la répression, alors que les Appareils Idéologiques d’État fonctionnent de façon massivement prévalente à l’idéologie.” Louis Althusser, “Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État”, in Positions, 1964-1975 (Paris: Éditions sociales, 1976), 102.

5 Kenneth Rapoza, “Here’s Why Europe Really Needs More Immigrants”, Forbes, accessed May 31, 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2017/08/15/heres-why-europe-really-needs-more-immigrants/.

6 Aurore Engelen, “Illégal” (Cineuropa, August 24, 2010), http://www.cineuropa.org/en/newsdetail/149581/fmt/flv/.

7 Manohla Dargis, “A Woman With a Son, but Not a Country”, The New York Times, March 24, 2011.

8 https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0557267/awards?ref_=nm_awd

9 Critics’ Talk #4: Olivier Masset-Depasse (International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2011), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D3U-_2f_To.

10 Valerio Caruso, LUX Prize 2010 - Olivier Masset-Depasse - Director, Illegal, accessed May 21, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l7HPnv4Htc.

11 “I started a year-long investigation with a journalist from the Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir and a lawyer from the Belgian Human Rights League. This enabled me to go and see for myself, which is what I really wanted to do. The accounts from people who had spent time in these centres and, above all, the opportunity to visit a specific centre (127 bis Detention Centre, near Brussels) several times enabled me to get a clear idea of what happens there, to get some accurate information.”, Olivier Masset-Depasse, Olivier Masset-Depasse director, Cineuropa, May 2010, http://www.cineuropa.org/en/video/148714/.

12 “Pour ne pas être manichéen ou tomber dans le film de gauchiste, je le voulais documenté, réaliste, explique-t-il : tout ce qu’on voit dans le film s’est passé au moins une fois dans la réalité. J’ai essayé de montrer que les gardiennes et certains policiers sont, eux aussi, victimes du système.” Frédéric de Vençay and Sébastien Schreurs, “Illégal - la critique”, Avoir Alire - Critiques et news films, BD, musique, séries TV, October 27, 2010, https://www.avoir-alire.com/illegal-la-critique.

13 Mireille Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal: How to Narrate Silence and Horror”, SubStance 43, no. 1 (2014): 13.

14 Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1995).

15 Agamben and Rocke, “We Refugees,” 3.

16 ElaN Languages, ElaNFilmavonden - Illégal, accessed June 4, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7-wVtPYv5U.

17 I define the term bilingualism to mean the ability of an individual to speak two languages and/or the presence and use of two languages in a given space.

18 When entering home Tania speaks Russian with the babysitter of her son, but she speaks French with him. She tells him “S’il te plaît, réponds en français.[Please, answer in French.]”

19 - Мам, я тебя никогда с мужиком не видел. [Mom, I never saw you with a man.]
- Vanya en français! [Vanya, speak French!]
- Мам, сделай мне подарок на день рождения? Давай хоть сегодня без твоего психоза обойдемся, ладно? [Mom, make me a birthday present? Could we spend, at least this day, without your psychosis, ok?]
- Видел. С отцом. [You saw me with your father.]
- Мам, мне было всего 4 года. Я тебе о мужчине говорю, о настоящем, а не о нашем отморозке. [Mom, I was four. And I said a man, not a bastard.]
- Хватит! Ты же знаешь, что это война виновата. [Vanya, stop that. It was the war that changed him.]
- Мам, я тебе мужика найду. [Mom, I will find you a real man.]

20 Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal,” 6.

21 Rosello, 17.

22 I am using Althusser’s term of “interpellation”.

23 Most of the phone calls are shown at the moment she is making them. There are two phone conversations that happen in the background of other activities (once she is recalling a phone call when trying to fall sleep, and another, she is playing a team game in the yard of the prison). She speaks also in Russian with Novak (Tomasz Bialkowski), a Russian mafia boss who provides false papers for Eastern Europeans who are not eligible for legal residency in Belgium.

24 The difference between the status of Belarus, a former Soviet republic, and Russia is openly stated at the beginning of the film when Tania and Zina chat at Tania’s home. Tania summarizes the circumstances: “For them, Belarus is a dictatorship. They will never send you back. Unlike me and Russia.” This is the reason for the fake identification document that Novak provides to Tania in which she is presented as a Belorussian.

25 “European Court of Human Rights - ECHR, CEDH, News, Information, Press Releases”, accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=home.

26 Rosello, “Olivier Masset-Depasse’s Illégal”, 20.

27 European Convention of Human Rights. http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf

28 Roger-Pol Droit, “Michel Foucault, on the Role of Prisons”, The New York Times on the Web, August 5, 1975, https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/17/specials/foucault-prisons.html.

29 Nora Lee Mandel, “Reel Life: Flick Pix”, March 27, 2011, http://mavensnest.net/illegal.html.

30 In an interview as one of the three finalists for LUX Prize in 2010, Masset-Depasse tells that there were political consequences after the release of the film. He shares that, “the Minister of Culture, who is also a Minister of Justice in Luxembourg saw the film and was very touched. […] and wants to unite all European Ministers of Justice to watch the film.” Cineuropa’s film database https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l7HPnv4Htc

31 Will Higbee, “Hope and Indignation in Fortress Europe: Immigration and Neoliberal Globalization in Contemporary French Cinema”, Johns Hopkins University Press 43, no.1, no. 133 (2014): 28, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1353/sub.2014.0001.

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Anna Dimitrova, « Silent Bilingualism in Olivier Masset-Depasse’s film Illégal », Mise au point [En ligne], 11 | 2018, mis en ligne le 22 octobre 2018, consulté le 13 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/map/2991 ; DOI : 10.4000/map.2991

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Anna Dimitrova

Anna Dimitrova a soutenu, à l’université de Pittsburgh, une thèse intitulée « Impasse in Multilingual Spaces: Politics of Language and Identity in Contemporary Francophone Contact Zones ». Ses domaines d’étude sont la littérature et le cinéma français et francophones. Ses recherches portent sur les phénomènes migratoires contemporains (immigration, exil, déplacement) et les zones de contact francophones au cours des XXe et XXIe siècles.

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