Plenty of documentaries are political in nature, but what separates Hind Meddeb’s second documentary feature, Paris Stalingrad, from the pack, is the director’s self-infusion into the film. It cannot be said that Meddeb hides behind her camera.
This sort of self-insertion provides a franticness to the film. Paris Stalingrad is another look at the growing migrant crisis in Europe, this time specifically focusing on a district in Paris that is home to a number of shelterless refugees. There are several moments in which Meddeb attempts to assist the area’s residents in understanding complex paperwork. In one instance, she helps a pregnant woman procure passage past a police line. The urgency is heightened here, as Paris descends into a boiling cauldron where police and a swelling refugee population clash amidst classical Parisian city scapes.
The most powerful scenes are not moments of heightened tensions, but rather, are the quieter and post-narrated ones. To provide an example, Meddeb provides voice over documenting the change of a formerly refugee encampment heavy area to a play area for Parisians only. In this instance, the narration affords a heavy Night and Fogvibe that is harrowing. The statement feels more pointed here, particularly though lines such as, “defending our borders is now taking place in the heart of our cities.” There is no denying the heavy, and ultimately well-executed, political weight of Paris Stalingrad, but a better balance between the amped up and the toned down may have even offered a stronger response.