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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Tania is a former teacher from Russia, living illegally in Belgium with her 14-year-old son, Ivan. One day, they are stopped on the street for a routine check by the police; Tania is arrested and placed in an immigration detention center for women, while Ivan manages to escape. Threatened with imminent deportation and fearful for Ivan's fate, Tania embarks on a harrowing journey, determined to preserve her dignity and find her son.


Submitted by Belgium - Best Foreign Language Film --2010 Academy Awards®

A fascinating study of perseverance in the face of subhuman treatment. --Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety

WINNER - SACD Prize, Director's Fortnight --2010 Cannes Film Festival

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Anne Coesens
  • Directors: Olivier Masset-Depasse
  • Format: Color, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: French, Russian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: French, Russian, English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Film Movement
  • DVD Release Date: July 5, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004707APW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,890 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on July 4, 2011
Format: DVD
Film critics were divided in reviewing "Illegal," made in Belgium and now brought to us by Film Movement, but I'm giving "Illegal" 5 stars. So, let me explain: As a journalist, I've read the whole range of reviews in newspapers and magazines--and first of all this film did, indeed, attract a high level of serious critical attention. That also means critics evaluated the film primarily as a movie-going experience. Those who were critical of the film wrote about the harsh experience of watching this single mother caught up in one of Europe's more Kafkaesque detention systems. This certainly isn't a movie for an evening of popcorn and laughter. It's also true that while it can be called Kafkaesque, it might also be called Disney-esque for the sweet sincerity of this mother's love for her son. Whatever the legal system throws at her, she is aimed like a heat-seeking missile at re-uniting with her son by the final scene. (And, no, that doesn't spoil the film because you still have no idea what strange twists and turns will lead you to that ending you can envision the moment the movie begins.)

I'm giving this film 5 stars because I've covered years of hot-button debates across the U.S. about immigration policy. I'm not taking sides here on political policies--and neither does this film, in the end. But the debate usually dehumanizes the "illegals" to the point that these individuals--in many cases women and children--become two-dimensional cartoons. We no longer see the humanity behind the issue. As a specialist in covering religious issues around the world, I know that one of the great moral choruses on immigration are religious leaders, especially the Catholic church.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Allan M. Lees on July 16, 2011
Format: DVD
While Hollywood spends billions turning out trash, low-budget films from the rest of the world address matters of importance. Illegal is such a film, and benefits from sure direction and assured acting. Tania is Russian, living illegally in Belgium, trying to keep below the radar while she struggles to create a better life for her son Ivan. Unfortunately Ivan is, like most children, unable to imagine a world beyond his narrow vision and consequently doesn't understand his mother's insistance on speaking French in order to keep a low profile. His determined use of Russian leads to his mother's arrest and incarceration in a Belgian detention center. Most of the movie is concerned with what happens here - the good and the bad.

This is an unashamed polemic, aimed at ensuring we don't gloss over the human cost of bureaucratic immigration policies. In the end, the wealthy and comfortable citizens of the West complacently ignore the plight of those less fortunate. In the USA the stance is even more hypocritical than normal because American agriculture depends on illigal migrant workers; in Belgium it's merely a question of maintaining EU rules that like all immigration policy basically discriminate on the basis of chance. If you happen to be lucky enough to be born in the West you get a nice life; if you're born elsewhere, hard luck.

But that luck really is hard, and the virtue of this film is that it enables us to see the lengths to which courageous individuals will go in order to try for a better life. Ironically, it's the people with the drive to make the attempt who suffer the consequences - yet these are precisely the courageous and driven types we need to maintain the vigor of our societies.
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By Shon R. Edwards on July 20, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I have always been one of the types who said, "kick out the illegals and we'll all be fine". When I saw this movie, I cried. As one commentor mentions, this movie humanizes the process. Perhaps he is right that those who have drive are the very ones who deserve citizenship. I don't say, as Obama does, "let them all in so they will vote for me." But I have had an opinion change about these poor illegal immigrants who are just looking for something better. I just cried. How very little justice there is in this world. Isn't there enough room in the United States for a few more who will use their talents to build it up? What happened to the Statue of Liberty quote: "...bring me...your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"? Who knows, maybe the next will be an Albert Einstein, for all we know? And that we would turn people back to dictatorships! Who do we think we are? Isn't there some way that this could be done properly? How did my great-grandparents get here? And yours? They just came. Same way we are putting down. And it's not as if many don't have blood on their hands. What did many do to the original inhabitants of this land? Perhaps that whole scenario shows a little bit of hypocrisy. And the poor Lieve (played exquisitely by Christelle Cornil), who works at the detention center, just can't seem to understand why it is so terrible in the horrible Belarus dictatorship and why people would try to come to her country to escape. Is it so terrible back there, after all? Tania answers her "Do you think we're masochists to endure all this hardship for a little freedom?

But when when one of the residents commits suicide, Lieve begins to understand then what these people are enduring in their own countries. Could it be so horrible to cut them a little slack?
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