Stella is a 49-year-old Romanian woman living with her husband in a shanty town located under the Motorway 86, in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis, which runs alongside the Eurostar railway tracks. In order to survive, she goes everyday to the same Parisian metro station, sits herself on the stairs leading down to the tube and starts begging. The Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital is one of the few places where she can have “normal” contact with French people. There, she has new teeth made, and so regains her dignity, despite everything.

Who is Stella ? Why did she come to France ? What did she leave behind in Romania? How did she adapt to living in a shantytown? How did she come to the decision to beg? What does she want out of life, what are her projects... her dreams? As I asked myself these questions, I decided to go and film her. It is a film about all these invisible people, whom we pass by day after day, without really seeing them.
I completely immersed myself into Stella’s life. Determined not to fall into quaint clichés, I took all the time I needed to translate her reality into images. I filmed Stella close up, without losing sight of her normality, without attempting to sensationalize, with no pretense of making a scientific or sociological study. It wasn’t my aim to clarify Stella, but rather to give the viewer the opportunity to stand in her shoes for an hour and seventeen minutes.
Stella, Marcel and Gabi enabled me, at last, to understand a huge paradox: for a vast majority of Romanian workers - who had been idolized and financially assisted by the regime - the brutal shift to democracy has meant a vertiginous downfall. Against their will, these people have “fallen into democracy” with no instructions, help or explanation. Suddenly faced with political and economic liberalism, they have the feeling that they have been propelled into a world that no longer needs them, which has led some of them to lament the safety of the previous regime.
I have offered Stella a space within which to express herself and she has occupied it in an honest, subtle, dynamic, sensitive manner. Her words are true, articulate, and reveal a genuine ability to analyze. And so Stella allowed me/us to touch on the myth of the Eastern European immigrant to better deconstruct it.
STELLA is at the same time the story of a worker from a former Ceaucescu-era factory baffled by the chaotic history of her home country, of a lover endangering her own life in order to save that of her man, of an immigrant rejected but cured by her country of “refuge”... and, above all, STELLA is the story of an ordinary woman, a woman like us, who never stops dreaming.

Vanina Vignal

En - Fr