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.