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Le ciné d’Henry Chapier - Stella - Radio Nova



Birth of a real cineast - Talking with Vanina VIGNAL
The article on the websitel
Newspaper’s pdf
The roumanian version of the article in pdf

Soon, the translation in English


Télérama, october 13 2007
You may have walked past her in a corridor in the Paris métro. Eastern European accent, a scarf over her hair, Stella is a beggar at the Oberkampf station. In the evening, stooped and exhausted, she trudges back toward her suburban shantytown, the caravan-hut under a bridge between the railroad tracks and the motorway, in which she lives with her husband Marcel and sister Gabi. Stella came from Romania to get medical care for Marcel in France. Today, Marcel is better - but now Stella is exhausted. She feels worn out, has stopped hoping for a better future in France where, as an illegal immigrant, she is “poorer and more miserable than in Romania.” These snapshots of everyday life are presented free of commentary, and Vanina Vignal gives us a very concrete experience of an immigrant woman’s clandestine and precarious life - the morning wash from a bucket, the laundry hung out over a dump, the rough shantytown life. But also sewing sessions with girlfriends, a quick brushing of hair in front of a mirror, bursts of laughter in French classes… Gradually, through her sympathetic presence and the trust she gains, the director succeeds in broadening the scope of her documentary, which becomes an impressionist film and goes beyond the simple observation of the condition of the marginalized foreigner. For Stella is also the portrait of a woman; an ordinary woman who dreams, sighs, hopes. “Stelutsa,” as Marcel fondly calls her, is a lover with teenage passion, ready to sacrifice everything for her man. It is also the story of a Romanian woman disorientated by the fall of communism, though she hasn’t forgotten the horrors of the Ceaucescu era. The fate of a stranded factory worker who regrets her old life and job, even though it cost her a finger. It is impossible not to become fond of Stella, so tired yet so intense. Just as it is impossible, after seeing the film, not to look at the anonymous figures in the métro with a different perspective.
Virginie Félix


Il était une fois le cinéma
The vocation of the documentaries shown during the Cinéma du Réel festival is not only televisual, inasmuch as they do not necessarily fit easily into programming standards, either through their form or content. And so these films have their right place in cinemas.
Today, “Stella” by Vanina Vignal. The eponymous character is without working papers, has come from Romania to treat her husband’s ill health, becoming ill herself whilst in France, living in a shantytown squeezed between the motorway and a railway line. She begs in Paris in order to survive, something she never had to do in her own country. She’s waiting to finally go home.
What is striking about this film is that it manages to see beyond the misery, without making it its main subject but rather a circumstance caught up in a singular fate, trying to humbly dissect the particular circumstances. The style of writing and editing works by withholding information: we are kept in suspense throughout the film, yet we don’t feel frustrated as we become attached to this humane adventure. The camera always stays at the right distance, respecting Stella’s strength and dignity, a sad but noble strength. A film without intentions and yet implicated (the director follows her hero’s return journey home via a smuggler), Stella manages to put into perspective prejudiced views and comments surrounding a populace we know little about.
François-Joseph Botbol (


Bonjour Bobigny
Stella begs in the Parisian metro in order to survive. In the evening, this Romanian goes back to a Plain-Saint-Denis shantytown, on the outskirts of Paris. Stella’s words, hopes, smiles and combat to treat her sick husband... Vanina Vignal filmed them all. This is a humble first documentary with the director sketching the portrait of a strong yet fragile woman.
Supported by Bobigny during Périphérie’s structure “Film-makers in Residence”, Stella begins her adventure on the cinema screen with the Cinéma du Réel festival.
Mariam Diop

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