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Program 13

When you Seek Protection in Switzerland

La Forteresse

Thursday, December 19, 2013, 7 p.m.

„La Forteresse“ („The Fortress“)
D: Fernand Melgar, CH 2008, 100 min

Every week, women, men, and children flee to Switzerland. They come from Togo, Georgia, from the Kosovo and Columbia to escape war, persecution, or ecological and economic catastrophes. Fernand Melgar films them in the place where they land after their journeys, which are often perilous: the “Empfangs- und Verfahrenszentrum (VEZ)“ in Vallorbe in the Canton of Waadt, one of seven such “reception and processing centers” in Switzerland. The asylum seekers are imprisoned here, sentenced to idleness, as it were, waiting for the federal government to decide on their application for asylum in Switzerland. There are no previous public pictures of this site, which Melgar filmed in the tradition of Direct Cinema; uncommented, observing, documentation. His recordings show fateful situations in the lives of those “who sort out human lives,” as well as those whose lives are decided upon here. The film was created at a moment when one of the most restrictive asylum laws in Europe, the so-called “Lex Blocher,” was passed by referendum vote in September 2006. Fernand Melgar: “I want to understand where the fear of foreigners comes from in this country, why we are closing our doors and turning this former land of asylum into an impregnable fortress.”