CANNES, France (AP) — Before making the Sri Lankan immigrant drama "Dheepan," French director Jacques Audiard acknowledged he couldn't have even found his characters' native country on a map. Audiard premiered "Dheepan" on Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival where critics warmly greeted the latest from the director of the Oscar-nominated "A Prophet" and the acclaimed "Rust and Bone." ''Dheepan" is about a former militant, a woman and a young girl who flee their civil war-ravaged Sri Lanka for France with the passports of a deceased family. "I didn't want them to have any links to a post-imperial French situation," Audiard told reporters Thursday. "I wanted them to come from a long way away, and Sri Lanka was the other end of the Earth for me." Posing as a family, the trio settles in a housing project outside Paris, but they soon find that even the other end of the Earth can also rage with violence. The titular character is played by a non-professional actor,
Anthonythasan Jesuthasan, who, like Dheepan, immigrated to France. After serving as a child soldier for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam, he fled Sri Lanka for Thailand as a 19-year-old. In 1993, he found political asylum in France.
"I came to France because at the time I was able only to find a fake French passport and not a fake English or British passport," said Jesuthasan. "It's a life full of adventure."
"Dheepan" sensitively depicts the experience of immigrants in France, which Jesuthasan could easily relate to.
"Just as you see in the film, I encountered any number of difficulties when I first arrived in France," said Jesuthasan. "I was even chased by the police when I was in the streets."
The film, among the movies vying for Cannes' top honor, the Palme d'Or, has been acquired by IFC and Sundance Selects for U.S. distribution.
Sri Lankan immigrant drama 'Dheepan' finds a home at Cannes
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