The Shelter

Fernand Melgar

Switzerland 2014, 101 min.


Spoken language: French, Spanish, English, Wolof, Romanian

Subtitles: English

Dutch premiere

Festival year: 2015

Many refugees in Lausanne spend the harsh winter nights outside, despite a thick layer of snow. The local reception centre has insufficient capacity to accommodate the large numbers of homeless people hoping to find shelter every evening. Urgent document on the immigration problems in Switzerland, which mirrors those of many European cities.

While the homeless worry about how to make it through the night without freezing to death, the employees of the reception centre have the ungrateful and arbitrary task to decide who is allowed in and who has to stay outside.


Director Fernand Melgar, himself a second-generation immigrant, observationally and objectively shows how the homeless spend the winter nights out on the street, in train stations and coffee stalls, and how the centre’s employees deal with the capacity problem. Should they invest in more beds, or put in place a registration system allowing people to stay several nights in a row? The filmmaker zooms in on a young Spanish couple that lost all its belongings due to the credit crisis, forcing them to adopt a nomadic lifestyle.

Melgar previously directed the disconcerting movie Special Flight, which was the opening film of the 2012 Movies that Matter Festival.


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