Hind Meddeb’s Paris Stalingrad questions the spectacle of authoritarian xenophobia.
Establishing shots evoking News From Home locate us in Paris’ refugee centre, Stalingrad, where newcomers to the city, who sleep in tents in the street, spend their days queueing for asylum meetings. Riot police suited in thick, inhuman armour, clash with refugees who have little more to protect them than a coat and backpack.
The act of documenting this brings up key moral questions: the anonymity of the people is necessary for legal reasons, but I felt a troubling disengagement in the impact of Director Hind Meddeb’s cool, Laura Poitras-style voice-over, which at times seems dispassionate towards these people’s lack of agency and their wider situation. Her actions on screen are empathetic and perceptive, which makes her persona difficult to grapple with. For a POV documentary, sometimes it’s hard to know what she’s thinking.
This rough piece of street reportage uses the camera with directness, it’s presence on the scene questioning the spectacle of authoritarian xenophobia. The mobility of the camera makes this more than a TV news feature. Meddeb captures a chorus of voices expressing anxiety, friendship, history. Paris Stalingrad’s purpose seems not to presume change things with her filmmaking as much as to capture the stories that took place within this period. In that unswerving, ungarnished journalism perhaps the more political act can be found.
Still seeking distribution in the US, UK, and Canada
Screens 9/10 at 7:15 p.m. (Scotiabank Theatre); 9/12 at 6:00 p.m. (Scotiabank Theatre); and 9/14 at 9:30 a.m. (Scotiabank Theatre) . Tickets here.