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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Un cinéaste poursuivi pour délit de solidarité

by Bruno Vincens

Film-Maker Accused of Assisting an Illegal Immigrant

Toulouse (Haute-Garonne): special report.

Translated Friday 9 October 2009, by Karen Grimwade and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Illegal immigrants. The film-maker José Chidlovsky, who is making a documentary about people in illegal situations, now risks going to prison for having sheltered one of them.

On Monday 5 October the film-maker José Chidlovsky was summoned to the offices of the French border police at Toulouse-Blagnac airport. Chidlovsky is currently filming a documentary called Journal de sans-papiers. This feature-length documentary, filmed in Paris and Toulouse, is due to be completed in 2010. It follows the experiences of several people without residence permits who live in fear of being deported. Amongst them is a young Algerian woman threatened with being escorted to the border and suffering from severe emotional stress. José Chidlovsky is accused of having provided accommodation for the young woman at his home in Toulouse.

The film-maker presented himself to border police at 9 o’clock sharp, accompanied by several dozen protesters and supporters who waited patiently in the entrance hall: activists or elected representatives from the French Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the French electoral coalition Europe Ecologie, the French NGO Ligue des droits de l’homme (Human Rights League) and the association Droit au logement (Right to Housing), among others.

Chidlovsky was released following an interrogation that lasted until 10:50am. Smiling and emotional, he was greeted upon his return by lengthy applause from the small crowd of waiting supporters. He told them, “I admitted my “offence” as they call it. I have also housed other people in difficulty and I will continue to do so.” “So will we!” came the reply. Chidlovsky went on to say, “The police officers are going to send my file to the prosecutor. During the interrogation they reminded me that I was breaking the law and asked me if I was aware of that. I admitted my guilt! We are citizens and we believe that hospitality is a fundamental rule.”

With several documentaries to his name Chidlovsky is no beginner behind the camera. He has also worked in television, producing and directing the literary series “Qu’est-ce qu’elle dit Zaie?” for France 3. Several film-makers and producers, including Robert Guédiguian, have come out in his support. Journal de sans-papiers and the problems encountered by its author serve to highlight the relationship that develops between a documentary maker and the real-life subjects of their films. As far as José Chidlovsky is concerned it is out of the question to forget all about these men and women once the camera has been put away.

Eric Besson, the Minister for Immigration insists that assisting illegal immigrants, the so-called “offence of solidarity”, is not a crime in France. Yet for having “housed a person in an illegal situation” José Chidlovsky risks a prison sentence. According to his lawyer Pascal Nakache, the prosecutor can either close the case or send the documentary maker before the criminal court. Those that went to the airport to support Chidlovsky have promised to remain mobilised if this should happen: “We will be there!”

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