On the Fringes of Democracy + Special Flight

A movie night with movies on protest and detainees in Switzerland

In collaboration with Network Democracy, students of the Amsterdam University College are organizing a variety of events in the New Democracy Dome throughout the month of May. The students are following a Global Politics theme course on Global Civil Society so you can expect workshops, panels, discussions and more on topics relating to a variety of international and societal problems.

On the Fringes of Democracy

On the Fringes of Democracy is a short film which compiles the interviews of seven activists living in the Netherlands today. They are of varying backgrounds, ages, and political beliefs but share in common that they have taken it upon themselves to take a stand for what they believe in. These individuals do not dwell in silence on the injustices that they see in society; they do not debate and discuss them from the comfort of their living rooms; they take to the streets and make themselves heard. We ask what it is that motivates individuals to take to the streets, to shout at the top of their voices, to bring attention to themselves and their cause even when at a risk to themselves. We ask what pushes people to push boundaries, to walk along the fringes of democracy in a bid to bring change to the societies they live in. The activists in our film have causes ranging from political freedom to the breaking down of structural inequalities, and environmental protection to women’s rights. They share with us their hopes for the future, their ongoing struggles, and their experiences with protest so far. Join us, and hear their stories.

Special Flight

A compelling documentary about a group of sympathetic Swiss asylum-seekers detained in the Frambois administrative detention center awaiting their deportation. Fernand Melgar paints a beautiful picture of the daily joys and grievances of the ‘detainees’ and is not afraid to show the harsh reality of life in Frambois. Follow a group of men in their last journey in Switzerland and feel what it is like to live in the fear of being ripped away from your life at any moment.

Opening film of the Movies that Matter Festival 2012, from the country that has the strictest immigration laws in Europe. The air in the Frambois administrative detention center near Geneva is fraught with tension. Asylum-seekers who have exhausted all their options wait for deportation, side by side with illegal immigrants. Without any due process, they sit in indefinite detention, sometimes for as long as two years. Their despair has a name: special flight. In his documentary entitled La Fortresse (Movies that Matter Festival 2009), director Fernand Melgar painted a portrait of life in a Swiss asylum-seekers center, where two hundred men, women and children live while they wait for their residence permit. Only 1 per cent of applicants receive a permanent residence permit; the rest have to leave sooner or later. Special Flight shows the end of the road for many asylum-seekers in Switzerland. The ‘detainees’ in Frambois are held without conviction or due process of law. This is where relationships founded on friendship, respect, hate and disgust are formed – until they receive word of who will be deported immediately. The official verdict comes as a stab in the back to many. Anyone who refuses to board the plane voluntarily is bound and blindfolded and forced onto a ‘special flight’. Like his previous film, Melgar’s Special Flight demonstrates his skill as a masterful and meticulous observer. Accusatory fingers or tear-jerker scenes to create emotional appeal won’t be found here – and yet his films mercilessly expose the weaknesses in a system lacking all compassion.

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