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Crossing the Divide with Jacques Audiard

A piercing and perceptive film about the contemporary refugee experience in France, Jacques Audiard’s 2015 Palme d’Or winner Dheepan depicts the difficulties of living as a stranger in a strange land. In the film, a Tamil Tiger soldier (Antonythasan Jesuthasan) abruptly flees Sri Lanka, during the waning days of its civil war, for the relative promise of Paris, along with a woman (Kalieaswari Srinivasan) and a child (Claudine Vinasithamby) who, despite being strangers both to him and to each other, must pose as his wife and daughter in order to seek their new start abroad. What begins as a realist domestic drama slowly evolves into a psychological thriller, as the protagonist takes a stand against the drug dealers in the suburb where he and his “family” wind up settling. Audiard underscores the theme of displacement by shifting generic modes beneath his characters’ feet, and his directorial approach was in large part geared toward the same purpose. In the clip below, taken from an interview on our edition, Audiard discusses the language barrier that existed between him and his actors—all of whom had minimal film experience going into the project—and how the freedom he gave them on set brought an authenticity to his exploration of the characters’ inner lives.

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