Does it Take Friendship to Realize that Illegal Immigrants are the Same as You and Me?

by vflor1 on November 19, 2013 - 11:00am


If someone came to you for help with a goal that was nearly impossible to achieve, would you be willing to help him or her? What if you had never met him or her before? What if it was illegal to even socialize with them? These are the questions Simon Calmat had to ask himself when an illegal immigrant named Bilal showed up at his public pool asking for swimming lessons (Welcome Lioret). Bilal was a 17-year-old Kurd. He left his home in Iraq and walked day and night for three months in hope that he would be able to sneak onto a ferry and cross the English Channel into England. Illegal immigration is not taken well in Europe, especially England. Bilal soon discovered this when he was caught, arrested, and sent back to Calais. Calais, the port in Northern France, is where Bilal and Simon’s paths crossed and their lives changed.

            Simon’s life before Bilal was one led by the depression of a failed marriage and an indifference to the changing world around him. There is a scene in Welcome at a grocery store where two illegal immigrants are getting kicked out for no reason. Simon does not say a word and is later criticized by his soon to be ex-wife for “keeping his head down and running home.” Simon may not have helped Bilal had it not been for the wake up call that his ex’s words gave him. As the swimming lessons continue it becomes clear to Simon what Bilal’s intentions are. Swim across the English Channel in order to be reunited with the girl he loves. Although Simon sees the task as impossible and dangerous, the will and dedication that Bilal presents forces Simon to agree to help.

            Housing and helping an illegal alien is against the law. Simon was faced with the possibility of being arrested and incarcerated by the French government. His neighbors complained to the authorities when he brought Bilal home, and it seemed that the local officers were always keeping an eye on him. Despite these problems Simon needed Bilal. The two men had more in common then they thought. Bilal needed to learn how to swim in order to cross the English Channel to be with his girlfriend. Simon was a swim instructor who was lonely and needed a companion. The friendship that is created between the two is a subtle hint to form the message that immigrants are real people.

            Throughout Bilal and Simon’s journey together there were outbursts of mistrust. Simon at certain points would freak out on Bilal thinking he was taking advantage of him. These misunderstandings only occurred because both men were on edge with the problems they were facing. Without either of the men knowing a bond had formed. Simon considered Bilal the son he never got to have. We see this truth when Simon calls the coast guard to report Bilal missing. He found his shoes and clothing on the beach and assumes that he decided to swim the Channel. During the call Simon gives Bilal the surname of Calmat. He then continues to reply “my son.”

            The film works hard to show little bias between the illegal immigrants and the French government. Instead it proves that these immigrants are real people with no country to call home. Simon’s ex-wife is surprised by the change of heart and the amount of dedication that Simon puts into his relationship with Bilal. Simon realizes that Bilal is the most dedicated person he has ever met and he respects the effort he put in to achieve his dream. Despite the age difference and the opposite backgrounds of Simon and Bilal, a companionship was formed that changed them both in a positive way.   


Lioret, L. (Director), Rossignon, C. (Producer). (2009). Welcome [Motion picture]. France: Film Movement





I have chosen to comment on this piece because I think this film sounds very interesting. Your description really shows what everyone should see regardless of watching this movie or not. Immigrants are real people, and the way they are treated in society today isn’t appropriate because they are real people like you or me. I think this film is really useful to demonstrate exactly that. I think how Simon grew to enjoy Bilal company and become a friend demonstrates that people can in fact befriend people even in they aren’t from the same country as you. The fact that they each found something in each other, regardless of where Bilal was from demonstrates how people from other countries are the same as someone from England, regardless of where they came from. I think you did a really good job showing the main idea of the movie and what the filmmaker was trying to portray through his work. It was very eye opening to see how immigrants are treated in other countries, because I was very unaware of their mistreatment in Europe. Really good piece of writing, it was very well structured and flowed really well. Good job.

The title definitely caught my eye and I agree with your point! You did a good job in summarizing the movie and helping us understand the directors point of view on illegal immigrants. This reminds me of the growing problem of illegal immigrants coming to the United States, primarily through Mexico. The American government has added more security at the borders to prevent more immigrants from entering. I feel we look down upon immigrants and we seem to treat them as if we are superior. At the end of the day, they are human beings like you and me. This film definitely portrays that. This should give us insight in how we treat immigrants. In the United States, I feel immigrants are scrutinized and ridiculed. We should treat them equally because we are all human beings. There could be many reason why they are fleeing to another country, whether it be a positive or negative reason. It was very interesting seeing the relationship grow between Simon and Balil. And you are right when saying Balil was the son that Simon never had. I feel his soon to be ex-wife played a role in helping Balil swim to meet his lover. Simon was devastated when realizing that Balil died.

I have to say that your piece was great! I also believe that illegal immigrants are treated with too much hostility. I think what many people still need to realize is that these people are not here to steal our jobs or deteriorate our culture. They come to our country for hope, for a better life, which is something that citizens of the developed world do not understand. Let's face it, there is no better place for us to go, we are the top of the ladder in terms of quality of life. We don't see the hardships that people face in third world countries because we have never had to go through it, and that makes us unable to understand why people try to come to developed countries. We should definitely try to make people more aware that these people are not bad people. Even the term "alien" is offensive, the first thing that pops to mind is an alien invader that has come to Earth to destroy us. Although I do believe that they should try to immigrate in a more legal manner, they should not be denied access to hope of a better life.

The strong title of your blog made me want to read what you had to say. This is a very powerful question that you posed, and I like that the powerful questions continued into the beginning of your blog. I really like the approach that you took when looking at Welcome, because I had never really thought about the movie like this. I obviously noticed how poorly the immigrants were treated, but the outlook you took on it was very unique and eye opening. I know that my parents always taught me to be nice to everyone, so it is a huge difference when you see how immigrants were being treated in England. I totally agree with your statement that immigrants are people too, so they should not be treated so poorly. You definitely proved that this movie showed many different aspects of how immigration effects people, especially with the relationship that formed between Simon and Bilal. Your summary of the movie was strong, and your points all backed up the main idea you were trying to get across. Your blog gave me a new perspective on the movie, and I think you did a nice job.

After seeing this film and reading your article, I definitely agree with your point of view on this topic. Although in some places immigration may in fact be labeled as a problem, immigrants are still people like everyone else and in general having an immigrant population actually enriches the native culture. They all need jobs, they all need help, and most importantly they all need a home. Besides, one of the major reasons behind immigration has to do with people trying to escape a problem and they usually have to change locations to do so. Unfortunately, in today's societies, the majority of immigrants are looked down upon and are seen as the problem rather than just people trying to evade problems.

I thought you did a really good job at drawing the readers in with such a strong title. I really liked that you incorporated this idea and questing into the movie Welcome. It is the perfect movie to show that there is a distinct relationship between the two different races. I was always grow up and taught to be opening to people we might see as “different” and when you think of it you see a lot of people give people that are ”different” the cold cheek. I completely agree and believe that this film did a great job at portraying the way we treat immigrants. I also feel that the US is full of people who discriminate against immigrants, and really we have no right to. They are people just like us; we just have to get to know them better instead of being stuck up and rude. Once we get past the differences in looks, culture, etc we find that a lot of our views on the outside world can actually relate and that these so called “immigrants” can actually be so alike us but we have to take the time and open-mindedness to realize this. My dad has a friend who married an Arabian woman and they have 2 little girls. They are the nicest family I have ever met. We can just judge people by the cover of their books; we have to read the pages on the inside to see who they really are.

Well said! I chose to write about this movie as well, for many different reasons. In my opinion it was well done, with plot twists, and historical issues to break that ‘norm,’ movie industries all seem to follow. In any case I also found it very relatable because my Uncle is from Turkey. He came over with my Aunt, and their family to the United States to have a better life. Whenever I am with him, I can feel his uneasiness, I can see how other people look at him, and judge him, because he was an immigrant. What they don’t know is he a great man, and knows twice as much American history than the average American. This is only a fraction of what Bilal feels like, because it is illegal for the citizens of Calais to help him out. He felt not only like an immigrant, but a criminal. Why? Just for a better life? Bilal was always striving for more and I loved the way you added the scene where Bilal attempted to cross the English Channel. I thought the movie was very inspirational, and even though it didn’t end the way I expected, it didn’t make me hate the film. Well done on your review.

I think this was a great summary that showed the relationship between Bilal and Simon, and what really drew me in was the title. It got me thinking what I would do in a situation like this that had to do with an illegal immigrant. Naturally, I think most people would put their head down and turn away like Simon did in the beginning of the movie. It also made me sad to realize that illegal immigrants really don't have their own place to call home and are just trying to make a better life for themselves. We should all be very thankful for living in the United States where we have a place to call home. Overall, I think your article was greatly written and showed many connections and changed between the two characters and society.

This was a great post! You shed some light on some parts of the film that I missed. While I focused on more of the love story that was occurring between Bilal and is girl, and the sort of reverse parallelism between Simon and his ex-wife. I really liked when you mentioned several times that immigrants are “real” people. They are talked about so much in politics today like they are objects which makes it hard to view them as people that are the same as you and I.
This issue raises a lot of controversy in the community that I am from. I grew up in western New York where agriculture and farming were by far the main industries. Because of the vast amounts of farms where I am from, there is also a large amount of illegal immigrants. I was always fairly conservative on the issue of illegal immigration until my neighbors took in a family of illegal immigrants and their 4 year old son started to wander into my family’s yard to play kickball or ask to swim in our pool. Watching this kid play with my sisters and I made me realize that these people are really no different than my family. I do still think that they should try to obtain citizenship legally, but I don’t stigmatize them in the way that I used to.

Honestly I think that your opinion is honorable and I would do the same as Simon Calmat from the movie if an illegal immigrant came up to me asking help like Bilal did. However, our society can’t work like that. We can’t let everyone in without restrictions this would lead to anarchy. Yes, we live in a cruel world but there are some things that we can’t change, we don’t have super powers that could restore peace all around the globe even if we wanted to and that looks like the more plausible solution…

I loved this blog post. First, the title caught my attention and I was curious to learn more. Also, I think that you bring up a great point that immigrants are never really thought of as “real” people when, in reality, they are. Simply the connotation of the word ‘immigrant’ is thought of as negative and I find this rather sad. I think that the film Welcome does a good job at representing immigrants, in particular Bilal, as normal human beings. In fact, Bilal is a very driven and caring person as well. To answer your question, I think that the relationship between Bilal and Simon is vital in demonstrating that Bilal is like any other human being, but I find it unfortunate that it takes a friendship to illustrate this.

Your title attracted me right away because this was my favorite film out of the whole series. How you started off your article was fantastic asking the readers the same questions that Simon had to ask himself but in a way more pressured situation because hosting illegal immigrants is very illegal and can get Simon arrested. I have illegal immigrants coming from Mexico into my town all the time because I live by a whole bunch of farms and apple orchards. They come in to work during the summer/fall and make money because dollars are worth so much more then Pesos. I think that this is okay because life in Mexico is so hard and it takes so long to get a green card. I just put it in perspective, they are humans like us that want to live free and happy and not have to worry about food or water every day. This film alone changed my view on Immigrants and your article was great to read! The film and your article pointed out that immigrants are just like us and they have goals also. I Really liked your article you did an outstanding job!

This was a great evaluation of Bilal and Simon’s relationship within the film. The relationship between the two was very important and perhaps had a deeper meaning than simply Simon helping to get to Bilal to his girlfriend. While reading this article, I found my points of view differently than while watching Welcome. During the pm screening of Welcome, I found myself thinking that it was simply nice for Simon to take in Bilal and let him stay with him. After, while reevaluating the story, I focused on the deeper meaning of the concept of the relationship between the two. While reading this article, I found myself thinking of if an American were to illegally house a Mexican alien. I thought more of the political and economic side while viewing the article. The film connected the relationship between Simon and Marion in comparison to Bilal and Mina. While Simon and Marion’s relationship was failing and ending, this brought Bilal closer to Mina. While in the act of Bilal and Mina trying to become physically closer, this brought Bilal and Simon closest together, in which benefited the both in the best of ways. Your evaluation of the article and the relationships within the film was impressive, thank you.

If someone came to me for help with a goal that was nearly impossible to achieve, I would be willing to help him or her because in life you can't take a dream to be little or big. If it's a dream you need to go after it. Take a chance. What if it was illegal to even socialize with them? Honestly for me I would still help because I am very into creating a way for everyone to be happy and accomplish their dreams but on the sad side when asking many people the previous question, they would never help someone if it put themselves at risk but sometimes that’s what it takes. Like you said illegal immigration is not taken well in Europe, especially England so for Bilal in this situation it was hard for him to find a way. Simon's life was changed but it's because he took a stand and helped create a way for someone who was trying to find love. Although it wasn't easy for Simon he continued on and that really showed his strength as a friend of a stranger. There are always times of mistrust throughout every relationship but when you are in great relationships like mine and mine friends you find a way to make it work. You talk and figure things out. Although they aren't illegal immigrants everyone is the same. Everyone has a story, and everyone has a reason

This film sounds very unique and it sounds like it is unlike any movie I have ever seen. You have convinced me what I should learn from watching this movie. This description reinforces the fact that immigrants are humans too, and the way they are treated in some cases is not acceptable. Immigrants have feelings just like any native does. I think this film really enforces this aspect of life. More importantly, this movie shows you that it is possible to be friends with someone even though they are not from the same country as you. I think this blog post was really well done. You successfully showed the main idea of this movie and you thoroughly explained what the producer was trying to teach the viewers. I remember in some of my elementary classes there were always some children that looked like they were immigrants but I do not remember anyone singling them out because they are not from here. This could also be a result of being so young, it was easier to accept people for who they are. This truly opened my eyes because I did not realize how badly immigrants can be treated in other countries. Good job, this was very interesting and eye-catching to read.

I think you did a great job on this post. The title really captured me because I was able to almost relate to the situation of having some sort of “forbidden friendship.” I feel like this topic is very accurately depicted in your article. I like how you started it out with yes/no questions people would probably answer in their heads, this sort of draws the reader in especially if they answered yes to one of them. I didn’t see the movie before I read the article but after watching the movie, this is a very good summary of it. It really makes the reader almost feel and imagine the bond that was formed between Simon and Bilal.