Upcoming Events


  • Virtual Event recommendations
  • Film
  • Lecture
  • Book Club
  • Exhibition
  • Performance
  • Conference
  • Panel Discussion
  • Roundtable Discussion
  • Film Series
  • Inspiration
  • French Culture Chez Vous
Upcoming Events
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
Past Events
  • 2023
  • 2022
  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2006

Oct 28

OCT 28

6:30 PM–9:00 PM


Special Flight (Vol spécial) by Fernand Melgar

6:30 PM–9:00 PM    Maison Française East Gallery, Buell Hall

Film/Panel Discussion:

Special Flight (Vol spécial) by Fernand Melgar  

Closing Night of the Filming at the Borders Film Series

To RSVP, please click here.

This is the closing night of Filming at the Borders: Migrating to Europe Today, curated by Nora Philippe and presented by the Columbia Maison Française.

Special Flight was directed by Fernand Melgar, 2011, 100 min.

Film screening followed by discussion with Professor Bernard Harcourt, and Nicolas Fischer, moderated by Nora Philippe. Director Fernand Melgar will join the discussion by skype from Geneva.

Genre: Documentary. Swiss Production. Language: French, with English subtitles.

Each year, thousands of men and women in Switzerland are imprisoned without trial or sentence. Simply because they stay in the country illegally, they may be deprived of liberty for up to 18 months before being deported - some of them after having spent up to ten years in Switzerland, worked, paid taxes, and started a family. Those who refuse to leave are handcuffed, tied up, dressed in diapers and helmets, and forcibly put on a plane for a journey that can last for 40 hours at worst. In this extreme situation, despair has a name: “special flight.” Melgar filmed for nine months at Frambois, one of the 28 expulsion centers in Switzerland (the European Union has more than 200). Special Flight opened in Official Competition in Locarno, and garnered more than 20 awards for best film around the globe; it was also nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. Special Flight triggered such a controversy in Switzerland that immigration services had to humanize their expulsion protocols.

Special Flight is a film that is engaged but not militant; it isn’t seeking to point fingers at brutal torturers. The situation is more complex than that, and to be faithful to reality, director Melgar films the ambiguous dealings between persecutors and victims in order to show the human face of this Western democratic form of barbarianism. Following in the tradition of direct American cinema of the 1960s, the film shows rather than tells, placing full confidence in spectators to decide for themselves. (Le Monde)

Special support for this screening is provided by the European Institute at Columbia and the European Union's Getting to Know Europe Program.

*Filming at the Borders: Migrating to Europe Today was curated by Nora Philippe and is presented by the Columbia Maison Française. Co-sponsors at Columbia University are the Maison Française, European Institute, the European Union's Getting to Know Europe Program, School of the Arts, MA in Film Studies – School of the Arts, Columbia Center for Contemporary Critical Theory, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Alliance Program, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Institute of African Studies, and Columbia Global Centers – Europe.

Support for this film series has been generously provided by the Knapp Family Foundation, the Paul LeClerc Centennial Fund, Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S., LaScam, Unifrance, and the European Union's Getting to Know Europe Program.




Special Flight (Vol spécial) by Fernand Melgar