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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Dheepan': An Electrifying Depiction of Tamil Refugees Finding Tentative Peace in Suburban Paris

Movie poster for the French film Jacques Audiard's Dheepan starring Antonythasan Jesuthasan

Dheepan (2015) is a potent and profound French crime drama starring Antonythasan Jesuthasan as Sivadhasan, a Sri Lankan soldier with the Tamil Tigers forced from his community after the resolution of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Inhabiting a refugee camp in northern Sri Lanka, Sivadhasan adopts the name and passport of a dead man named "Dheepan" and proceeds to emigrate to France alongside assumed wife Yalini (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and 9-year-old daughter Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby).

Granted political asylum by the French Government, Dheepan and his fictitious family take up residence in a suburban housing project, located in Poissy on the outskirts of Paris, where Dheepan secures employment as a resident caretaker. The property is controlled by vicious drug dealers, however, and Dheepan soon recognizes that he has relocated from one war zone to another—unable to find the life of peacefulness he desperately desires. Despite his arduous attempts to remain neutral and evade the criminal activities that run rampant throughout the community, he is ultimately pulled into the fray in the most dramatic and consequential of manners.

Co-written and directed by celebrated French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone), Dheepan delivers an atypical and resounding depiction of the European immigrant experience. Working with Jesuthasan to craft a storyline inspired by his experience as a youthful Tamil Tiger, along with additional influence from Montesquieu's Persian Letters, Audiard has delivered a provocative and deeply moving tale of human reclamation. Turning the tables on conventional tales of immigration, it's a forceful human drama beset by stirring shades of barbarity and deliverance.


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