There are refugee crises all over the world, and though the details vary the same overarching story repeats again and again: people fleeing violence and terrible conditions make their way to a safer, richer place, only to find the new country also treats them inhumanely. In Paris Stalingrad, Hind Meddeb documents the plight of mostly African migrants trying to start a new life in Paris, only to end up living on the street, getting the bureaucratic run-around, and being forcibly relocated multiple times by the police. Hundreds camp in the Paris neighborhood near the Stalingrad Metro stop, while the offices that are supposed to help refugees turn them away day after day. The filmmaker, Hind Meddeb, makes regular trips to the camp to warn of incoming police raids, to offer food, and to help the most vulnerable navigate the system.
The only real structure to Paris Stalingrad is that it follows events linearly through time from 2016 into 2017. A refugee from Darfur, Souleymane, who expresses his dreams of better times through poetry is front and center, though the film seems more interested in documenting the overall goings-on than dwelling on any particular stories.
“African migrants trying to start a new life in Paris, only to end up living on the street…”
The heart of Paris Stalingrad shines through mostly when the filmmaker herself, Hind Meddeb is in front of the camera, doing all she can to alleviate suffering, even if she can’t change a broken system. As for the latter, what she can do is bear witness, something few are willing to do as people go about their lives trying to push the problem farther away from them.