The Shelter

The Shelter

                                The Shelter
| 1 h 41 min

After the uproar over Vol Spécial, Fernand Melgar returns to Locarno with a film that might seem less dramatic in content but which is equally tough on exposing a dysfunction within the world’s oldest democracy. L’Abri, the small and anonymous refuge in Lausanne which opens its doors to 50 fortunate homeless people on the coldest nights of the year, has what it takes to serve as a clear metaphor for reading the situation of Switzerland, following February’s successful referendum on curbing immigration. Filming the nightly ritual that requires the wardens to make an absurd selection between who can enter and who instead must spend the long winter’s night on the city’s streets, Melgar offers us an image as specific as it is dense in meaning. An image that applies, in an obstinately annoying way, not only to Switzerland but to the Western world and its new role as barrier/landing stage for the new citizens. The topography of the place does the rest: metallic barricades glittering in the dark, cold steel doors that open for a brief instant to swallow up the lucky ones. And all around a turmoil, to be honest a little too composed. Being inside or remaining outside: L’Abri constructs its drama on this opposition to which the world seems to have become accustomed. Following one of his favourite rules, Fernand Melgar does not take sides, though his sympathies are clear to even a minimally trained eye. His style of filmmaking does not emphasize the hypocritical fiction of those who espouse the position of the suffering; he avoids any imposition, even though, perhaps for the first time, he plays on a more marked proximity. Portraits thus emerge from the depths of the night, created by fragments, where more than words or actions, what counts is a glance. Or choosing to share the winter cold. A winter spent in the heart of an emergency shelter for homeless people in Lausanne. At the entrance to this hidden bunker there unfolds every night the same dramatic ritual, leading to occasionally violent confrontations. The watchmen have the difficult task of “sorting the poor”: women and children first, men later if there is room. Even if the shelter can hold 100 people, only 50 “chosen ones” will be allowed inside to receive a hot meal and a bed. The others know that the night will be a long one.

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  • director
    Fernand Melgar
  • executive producer
    Elise Shubs

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