The French nation has traditionally been considered a colour blind one, but characteristics alter when circumstances change. When the people that you colonised come to your country in the expectation of a better life you may not be as welcoming as they hoped. Eleonore Yameogo explores the life of the modern day immigrant in Paris. She was born in Burkina Faso and trained as a director before coming to France to make her film documentary. She puts a human face on the Parisian Africans who sell trinkets to tourists in order to survive and relays their message that life as an illegal immigrant may be different but is not better than life back home.
Ms Yameogo focuses on Shabu who has lived on the streets of Paris for ten years, although he was a semi-skilled worker in Africa, he will do anything he can to earn money in his illegally adopted country. He is happy to accept a menial and badly paid job as a painter as an alternative to annoying tourists with his wares. Shabu telephones his relatives in Africa and advises them that France isn’t the answer to their dreams for an improved life, and that they should not consider coming to Paris.
Bintou entered France legally as part of a dance troupe, but for reasons not explained left the company and so became an illegal immigrant. Help is given to immigrants with children, so Bintou had a baby of convenience, which entitled her to a room and some money from the French government. She is a hard worker and over the years saved enough money to visit her family in Africa. While sitting in the yard of her parent’s dirt-poor hovel she realises how useless the souvenirs she’d brought them are and how the Euro 900 which her airline ticket cost would have been much more useful to her family than her presence for a short holiday. Bintou realises that she doesn’t fit in anywhere, neither in Paris nor with the family she has returned to visit. She wonders what to do next.
Paris Paradise exposes the unhappiness which mass immigration causes both the illegal immigrant and the host country. Ms Yameogo’s documentary shows the courage and the optimism of those trying to better their lot in life. Although she does not try to provide a solution to this worldwide problem, she has made an interesting documentary which puts a human face on the lives of some of the people caught up in it. (JM)