Written and Directed by Mark Brown
Documentary review by Gabi Habib
‘Voices from the New Jungle’ is a documentary which teaches us about the ever-growing issue of migrants coming in to Calais, a port city in Northern France. While the migrants come from a variety of different countries facing crises, the focus is on those whose countries are war-torn or are amidst huge political unrest. It would seem though that these people now face a new kind of war in Calais as the town wrestles with the influx of migrants seeking refuge in what was, until recently, a popular tourist town. There are a few refugees who agree to engage with Mark Brown, director and interviewer, giving him an insight into their stories, hopes, and life in Calais
From the onset the feeling of alienation experienced by the migrants is apparent. Most are not interested in talking to the crew but three or four are willing. For the majority it seems the goal is to get to the UK where they believe opportunity and a fresh start awaits. Getting there, however, is no easy feat. The port is where the migrants aim to leave France and enter England, but with security increasing daily and police on high alert, chances are slim and attempting so is very dangerous. A couple of migrants who are interviewed talk about being injured having tried to leave, but despite the fact their will to try appears strong.
Brown speaks to a wide range of people which gives the viewer deeper insight into the situation on a broader scale. These people include Calais town residents, Town Councillor Lauren Roussell, and British born writer Kristina Howells (now a Calais resident). While there is immense sympathy for the refugees and the hardships they’ve had to face, the overwhelming feeling is one of frustration and fear amongst the public. Councillor Roussell speaks about two kinds of reactions from Calaisiens, the first being one of resistance with disrespect shown to migrants, seeing them as outsiders and undeserving of receiving welfare from the town. The other shows people as more accepting and making great efforts to help, for example we see a clothing distribution site and a charity centre opening its doors every day to the migrants to offer food, a shower and assistance with processes such as asylum applications.
To emulate some of the thoughts mentioned by Roussell later in the film, it is upsetting that the town of Calais has been negatively affected in terms of deterring tourists from coming in and inspiring residents to leave. This seems especially unfair when, for the majority of migrants, Calais was meant to be a stopover and not a destination. The notion of a better life in England feels like an illusion, and one which only a small percentage of migrants may get to realise in a bleak situation with no immediate solution.
Brown’s film manages to dissect and shed light on a topical issue in a delicate way. The cinematography deserves a mention with some captivating footage shown of makeshift campsite living in Calais. Commentary from different sources adds to an overall feeling of neutrality about the issue. As the subject matter is of a sensitive nature, the documentary's approach needed to respect and match this quality, which it does beautifully. ‘Voices from the New Jungle’ is honest, thought-provoking, and well worth a watch.
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