The filmmaker immersed himself for nine months in the administrative detention center of Frambois in Geneva, one of the 28 expulsion centres for undocumented migrants in Switzerland. In Frambois, there are rejected asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Some of them have been in Switzerland for years, have started a family there and are working–until the day when the cantonal immigration services arbitrarily decide to throw them in prison to guarantee their departure. None of the detainees are willing to leave Switzerland voluntarily. Then, a long administrative relentlessness begins with the aim of forcing them to leave.
A word from Tënk
With his second film on asylum seekers in Switzerland, Fernand Melgar takes us through the bureaucratic back hallways of the Frambois detention centre, the point of departure for the so-called “special” flights used as a last resort by the government to remove asylum seekers from the country. While imprisonment is surely one of the most effective methods of dehumanization, the detainees, for their part, struggle to make sense of their traumatic arrests in an effort to comprehend the incomprehensible, using the little they are left with: their ability to reflect and to speak. Their powerlessness stands in start contrast to the arrogance of the guards, who are lulled by an illusion of legitimacy that allows them to argue that this “return home” will be safe for the detainees, whose many years working, raising a family, and paying taxes in the country make this marginalization even more painful.
Taking a direct cinema approach, Melgar observes how each small detail affects morale among the detainees, reinforcing their humiliation and fear of returning to a country they no longer recognize and left behind for a multitude of reasons. Sequences shot in daily meetings of the team responsible for running the centre, while recognizing their fundamental humanity and empathy, allow Melgar to demonstrate how administrative language reduces real life into a schematic where one can simply arrange departures, assigning seats in the airplane as one might assign garden plots to different vegetables. At a time when the world is beset by political and social crises that create massive displacement of populations, Special Flight reveals the insidious nature of one system and reminds us of the profound need to rethink our current understanding of citizenship.
RIDM Programming Collective