Bilal is 17 and comes from Iraq. He left his native land shortly after his girlfriend emigrated to England and is now in the midst of an adventurous journey across Europe in order to see her again. However, his trek has now come to an abrupt end here on the northern coast of France and he can go no further. Between him and his girlfriend Mina lies the wintry English Channel, its waves whipped into a frenzy of peaks and troughs by the strong gusts of the north-west wind. Bilal is stranded in Calais.
A stretch of water measuring 32 kilometres separates him from the nearest English town. And yet this same Channel, plied by over 500 ships a day and hence the busiest waterway in the world, can be crossed without the aid of a captain – as many a bold swimmer since 1875 has proved.
Could Bilal join their number? In a flash, the boy decides to head for the local swimming pool in order to begin training. This is where he meets lifeguard Simon, to whom he eventually confides his grand plan. Simon takes Bilal under his wing and secretly teaches the young Kurd how to crawl …
The film centres – apart from swimming – on the lives of illegal immigrants in France. To many people this is a completely unknown world. Philippe Lioret: “And yet it is so close to us. It is a good thing in cinema to be able to explore the country in which one lives from an angle about which one has no knowledge whatsoever.”
by Philippe Lioret
with Vincent Lindon, Firat Ayverdi, Audrey Dana
France 2008 116’

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