Special Flight

( Switzerland / 2011 )
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While awaiting deportation from Switzerland, men are held in jail. Although their incarceration may last up to 24 months, deportation can be announced without warning and its enforcement is immediate. Behind the closed prison doors, tensions build day by day, as captured by a film crew with unprecidented access to a detention centre for illegal migrants. The wardens are charged with the responsibility of presiding over immigrants at the end of their journeys, defeated by fear and stress.
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Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 100/52 min.
Theme: Colonialism, Globalization, Human Rights, Immigration and Migration, Law and Justice, Society
Language(s): French
Subtitles: English
Director(s): Fernand Melgar
Producer(s): Climage
Excluded regions: Switzerland, France
Special Flight


  • "Worlds collide with the utmost courtesy in “Special Flight,” a somber and beautifully modulated documentary"
    The New York Times
    Mike Hale
  • "A heart-wrenching exposé of the contradictions between the country’s compassionate social policies and the intractability of its immigration laws."
    Tambay A. Obenson
  • "The docu's subject get under the skin, and their plight represents one of the major challenges to immigration policy not just in Switzerland, but in the First World as a whole."
    Jay Weissberg
  • "Melgar's cinema is non-judgemental. It does not separate the Good from the Bad; it captures life in all its contradictory drives, makes room for humor at the core of despair, reveals the truth in all its complexity, avoids the trap of prejudice, lends a face to the socially excluded, hits just where democracy hurts, [and] trusts the intelligence of its viewers. His is a socially engaged but nonetheless objective cinema."
    Le Temps
    Antoine Duplan
  • "The film director enables us to hear the diversity of voices that, because of the categories into which they generally fall – undocumented immigrants, the socially excluded or others still – generally remain unheard, attesting to his discerning grasp of social issues."
    Le Monde Diplomatique
    Manouk Borzakian
  • "Thanks to the honesty and clarity of the stated facts, this film avoids all demagoguery in its revelation ofthe humanly revolting conditions surrounding the special flights. The individual destinies that Fernand Melgar handles are endowed witha rare emotional intensity and,formally, the resulting film does full honor to the cinema of the real."
    24 Heures
    Jean-Louis Kuffer

Academic Notes

  • Immigration Detention in Switzerland A Global Detention Project Special Report By Michael Flynn & Cecilia Cannon October 2011
    As the documentary film “Vol Spécial” dramatically portrays, these deportations can involve imposing harsh measures, raising questions about Switzerland’s efforts to adhere to the proportionality principle—as well as to basic standards of custodial behaviour—when removing people from the country.
  • Discussion Guide - Special Broadcasting Service
  • Lesson Plan - Public Broadcasting Service
  • Reading List - Public Broadcasting Service
  • Interactive Map of Asylum Seekers - Public Broadcasting Service

awards & accolades

  • San Sebastian Human Rights Film Festival - Amnesty International Award
  • Solothurner Filmtage - Prix de Soleure
  • Festival des Libertés - Mention spéciale du Jury, Mention spéciale des droits de l'homme
  • Festival del film Locarno - Premier Prix du Jury des Jeunes, Prix du Jury Oecuménique
  • Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie - Grand Prix du meilleur documentaire
  • Watch Docs Human Rights International Film Festival - Grand Prix
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - enter for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award

Festival participation

  • San Sebastian Human Rights Film Festival
  • Solothurner Filmtage
  • Festival des Libertés
  • Festival del film Locarno
  • Festival international du cinéma francophone en Acadie
  • Watch Docs Human Rights International Film Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Mumbaî
  • Leipzig
  • DocLisboa
  • Doha Tribeca film festival
  • RIDM
  • Festival Dei popoli
  • Bogotà La muestra documentale
  • FICFA, Acadie, Canada
  • Festival des Libertés
  • Gijon
  • French Film Festival UK

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Additional Info

Production Company: Climage
Distribution Company: CAT&Docs

  • Interview with director Fernand Melgar

    Fernand Melgar speaks about asylum in Switzerland at the Locarno Film Festival

    Read more

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Special Flight

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