Dheepan, the new Audiard, finally showed up in my little town’s independent theater. I’m definitely glad I got to see it on a large screen and I’m definitely looking forward to the Director Commentary on the DVD release.

Dheepan won the Palmes d’Or at Cannes in May of last year (2015), opened in French theaters quite soon after (August 2015 – when EVERYONE (correct me if I’m wrong) is on vacation). They then plugged in English subtitles for a UK release the following February (2016) – and voila! here it is on the other side of the pond in just a little over a year. Not Internet Time, for sure, but definitely a record for an Independent Film.

It’s another Audiard/Bidegain collaboration (see also: Rust & Bone and The Prophet) following the travails of 3 refugees of Sri Lanka’s Civil War (1983 – 2009).

Word is that inspiration was also drawn from Montesquieu’s Persian Letters and Penkinpaw’s Straw Dogs. Am I going to watch a Penkinpaw, just to get a better grip on what that might mean? No. I am not.

But the Montesquieu lead’s intriguing. Montesquieu was a prominent French social critic — born in 1689 (100 years before the French Civil Wars hit the ground running). Montesquieu is best known for writing a little pamphlet entitled The Spirit of the Laws — which is thought to have been a major source of inspiration for both the The Founding Fathers of the United States and Catherine the Great of Russia. Rome banned it.

What’s so intriguing about that?

Montesquieu made a lot of noise about how Slavery was Just Wrong and should definitely be abolished yesterday — an inconvenient “recommendation” that various and sundry founding fathers proceeded to studiously ignore.

The flip side of that is that Slave is from the word Slav – because when Western Europe was developing its Romance languages (after the fall of the Roman Empire) they were enslaving Eastern Europe’s pagans (aka Slavs), because Rome said they really shouldn’t be enslaving Christians.

Am I going off on a tangent? What is Audiard really on about in this film? Is it really just about one little guy trying to rebuild his life on the other side of the world?

No spoilers, please. But. If you’re a Rust & Bone / Prophet fan, go ahead and think of it as a Trilogy. I’m scheduling a retrospective as we speak.


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5 thoughts on “Dheepan (2015 Film)

  • June 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

    About that elephant, courtesy of wiki, some memes:

    Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered.

    The population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years.

    The species is threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation. 

    It is nevertheless estimated that Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia.

    According to the elephant census conducted in 2011 by the Wildlife Conservation Department of Sri Lanka, only 2% of the total population are are tuskers (genetically coded for tusks).

    Sri Lankan elephants are somewhat diminutive when compared with historical accounts dating back to 200 BC and with photographs taken in the 19th century during the time of colonial British rule of the island. The smaller size could possibly be the end result of a long-continued process of removing the physically best specimens from the potential breeding-stock through hunting or domestication (see insular dwarfism).

  • June 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Sri Lanka, from World Without Genocide, a little background:

    In 1956, the Official Language Act was enacted. This law mandated Sinhala as the sole official language of Sri Lanka. This is the language of Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese (Buddhist) community and is spoken by over 70% of Sri Lanka’s population. This was intended to act both as a statement of independence from Britain and as a clear sign of superiority of the Sinhalese over the Tamil. Consequently, this act forced large numbers of Tamil who worked in the civil service, and who could not meet this language requirement, to resign. Affirmative action in favor of Sinhalese was also instituted at the same time. Many Tamil interpreted this deliberate marginalization as proof that they deserved a separate nation-state for themselves.

    Ethnic tension exploded in July 1983, expanding Tamil liberation groups and propelling the country into a war between those groups and the Sri Lankan government.  On July 23, 1983, thirteen Sri Lankan soldiers were killed when they drove over a landmine in northern Sri Lanka, sparking riots for the next four days throughout the country.  Sinhalese crowds burned and destroyed Tamil property and attacked Tamils.

    The government was slow to respond to end the violence.

    In some instances, it was reported the state helped Sinhalese rioters by transporting them in governmental vehicles and giving them information so they could more easily find Tamil targets.  By July 28, 1983 there was an estimated $300 million in property damage, 70 percent of the Tamils in Colombo were refugees, and between 2,000 and 3,000 Tamils were dead. More . . .

  • June 15, 2016 at 11:57 am

    More from wiki:

    Tamil is predominantly spoken by the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka, and also by the Tamil diaspora. Tamil is an official language of two countries, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

    It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union Territory of Puducherry. It is also used as one of the languages of education in Malaysia, along with English, Malay and Mandarin.

    In India, outside of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, Tamil is also spoken in the states of Kerala, Puducherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a secondary language, and by minorities in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India. It was the first Indian language to be declared as a classical language, which the Government of India did in 2004.

    The language is also spoken by Tamil minorities among the diaspora in Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, United Kingdom, Mauritius, Canada, South Africa, Fiji, Germany, the Philippines, the Netherlands, Indonesia and France, as well as smaller emigrant communities elsewhere.

    Tamil is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. A recorded Tamil literature has been documented for over 2000 years.

  • June 15, 2016 at 12:12 pm


    Since Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, relations between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities have been strained. Rising ethnic and political tensions, along with ethnic riots in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983, led to the formation and strengthening of militant groups advocating independence for Tamils.

    The ensuing civil war resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people and the forced disappearance of thousands of others.

    The civil war ended in 2009 but there are continuing allegations of atrocities being committed by the Sri Lankan Military and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam during its final months. A United Nations panel found that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war.

    The end of the civil war has not improved conditions in Sri Lanka, with press freedom not being restored and judiciary coming under political control.

  • June 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    It should be emphasized that you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy the film.

    It’s a very well crafted story that’s arguably as much about French Ghettos as Sri Lankan refugees.


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