There are movies that hit you and make you think – and Welcome (Welcome) is one of them. It’s a story about the friendship between Simon Calmat, a hardened and disillusioned swimming instructor and Bilal, an illegal migrant from Iraq who is stuck in Calais, France and wants to swim across the Channel to the UK, so he can meet his girlfriend, Mina. He walked thousands of kilometres from Iraq all the way to France, only to face the real challenge when he tried to cross the Channel. It’s a simple premise covering a complex myriad of issues. You learn about the dangers that illegal migrants go through just to go to the ‘promised land’, thinking that they will have a good life and an escape from the hardship at home.
However, in Bilal you see somebody who is in love, who will do whatever he can to meet his girlfriend, even when it means staying in a swimming pool after it’s closed and training himself to swim for hours. He’s a 17-year-old with the hope of playing with Manchester United when he arrives in the UK, that life somehow will be okay if he reaches the other side. On the other hand, it’s a story about a craving for real human connection for Simon. Welcome is a movie about people with their hopes and dreams.
Philippe Lioret deals with the subject wisely and does not try to manipulate the viewers’ emotions with overbearing soundtrack or melodramatic scenes. It makes the movie more powerful, as you end up digesting it personally and relate to it individually.
It’s really difficult to have a holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to illegal migration – you’re probably reading this in a comfortable environment, with running water and relatively reliable electricity – but what if you live in a wartorn country, or in a depressed economy and you just have to give your dream a go. Of course, one can be all loving and supportive without also looking at the other side – at the countries that end up having to deal with the increasing number of slums and ghettoes of illegal immigrants. What can you do? You realise that you just need to be thankful of what you have and the life that you lead and not to cast judgment – had we been born in those countries, we might have done the same. Before we judge, have a listen to their stories.