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The Shelter

Documentary Film
101 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Fernand Melgar
Fernand Melgar
Fernand Melgar
Karine Sudan
Elise Shubs
Every winter evening tumultuous scenes take place in front of the bunker: the employees of the municipal doss house may let in precisely 50 homeless people – the number is raised only in exceptional cases. A crucial test for both sides, for those who were rejected will find hardly any spots in the spanking clean Swiss city of Lausanne where they can spend the night without trouble with the police and protected from the cold.
Fernand Melgar reports a new kind of poverty that hits not only Romanian Roma families, but also the former middle classes and African migrants from the crisis-shaken parts of Europe. And he relates how the rich part of Europe deals with it. He keeps filming the routines in the shelter and offices over the course of a season. He follows those who were rejected into the night and stays with them as they – in our midst, but practically invisible – pass their days in the streets and public institutions. He watches them keep up appearances while their lives collapse. But he also shows how social workers daily try to fight the misery and only manage to administer it, while their humanity quite often brings them into conflict with their regulations or their boss.
By highlighting all sides, Melgar delivers more than a social study. It’s the nightmarish analysis of a system that can’t be repaired by merciful donations.
Grit Lemke