I watched ‘Les corps interdits‘, or ‘Banned Bodies’, last night, the closing production of the 2017 Festival of Migrant Film in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. It’s an experimental short documentary by French documentary director and producer Jeremie Reichenbach about life in the Calais ‘Jungle’ before the migrant jump-off ground between France the United Kingdom was razed last October.
In the 12-minute piece, Reichenbach shares some of the stories about the brutal conditions that migrants were forced to endure in the Calais encampment, told through the voices of some of the men who passed through there. That’s where the somewhat ‘experimental’ aspect comes in: you never see the men’s faces, but only hear their voices — emotional, brutally honest, poetic, sometimes even profound as they describe the limbo circumstances have led them to. Most of the visuals are black and white photographs of ‘The Jungle’, the muddy swamp-like tent city that was home to more than six thousand refugees and migrants during the peak of the ‘crisis’ in Europe in late 2015. The film’s impact wouldn’t have been nearly as strong had he been there with a camera instead of a microphone only.
‘Banned Bodies’ was one of 15 films, most of them shorts, that I managed to catch at the festival since Friday, and among the most powerful. I’m hoping to post more on those later this week. But first, above is a Q&A with Reichenbach that followed the screening; in it he discusses both the subject matter –the realities of life ‘The Jungle’ and the refugees and migrants he met there– and the making of the film itself. It was an informative discussion that, somewhat ironically, lasts nearly four times as long as the film itself.
Below, the ‘Banned Bodies’ trailer.
And for some additional context, more on ‘The Jungle’:
- The Guardian – The horror of the Calais refugee camp: ‘We feel like we are dying slowly’ (3 Nov 2015)
- The Independent – Refugee crisis: What life is really like inside the ‘Jungle’ in Calais (30 Sept 2015)
- CNN – Calais ‘Jungle’ migrant camp: What you need to know (22 Oct 2016)
- Magnum Photos – The Calais Jungle: Jérôme Sessini reports on the migrant camps in Calais (Dec 2015-Jan 2016)
- Vice – Inside the Notorious Camp Where Refugees Sewed Their Lips Shut (20 Jun 2017)