Bob and Delia, two fresh theater actors from Transylvania arrive on the remote plateaus of the French Cantal mountains to put together a multi-artistic performance with forty other Europeans. Besides the challenges of life in this new community and the mounting pressure of the show, they meet their octogenarian neighbor Louis Bonnet, who lives alone with his goats and chickens...
SYNOPSISWhen Maria Tanase died in 1963, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Bucharest to join her funeral procession. Socialist Romania had not seen a procession like this neither for Stalin's death in 1953 not for the enormous communist “Liberation Day” parades. Whether they were the new proletariat, students, remnants of farmers, of intellectuals and artists, Maria touched a strong cord. She sang their joys and sorrows in the darkest era of Romania's modern history that started in 1945: massive arrests, unimaginable tortures, the uprooting the largest population of Romania, the farmers, and their transformation into lumpen-proletariat in low-income housing in the cities. For some, her fearless stance and power on stage opened a last space of freedom and uncensored emotion in a country where 1 in 3 people were informers for the Securitate. But how many of them knew that six months before her death this People's Diva became herself an informer for the Securitate?The film unveils the story of betrayal and individual dis-empowerment of this Romanian Edith Piaf, caged by Eastern Europe's most traumatizing political system. Maria was five in 1918 when Romania began its twenty years of autonomy, economic growth and cultural boom. Daughter of a farmer living in the mahala periphery of Bucharest, Maria is influenced by the 1930s intellectual movement searching for the “unspoilt” Romanian folklore. She put together a repertoire of a particular traditional blues (doinas) and Gypsy mahala songs. With them she defies the trendy jazz ans swing of the cosmopolitan Bucharest, and conquered the educated and regular public alike, becoming Romania’s first popular star. Columbia Records' most recorded singer at only 23, Maria mesmerised audiences in Vienna, London, Paris and New York, winning contracts to sing and live in the US, escaping war-torn Europe. Yet she returned home, only to have her recordings destroyed and find herself placed under house-arrest by the fascist government in Bucharest. After the Soviet occupation of Romania in 1944, the communists accused Maria of being a spy and the “people’s enemy”, torturing her agent into testifying against her. Highly temperamental, Maria spoke her mind openly often challenging the machiavellic regime, as informers’ testimonies piled up in the secret service file opened on her. However, while they destroyed most intellectuals, the Securitate simply could not shut her down: was it her tumultuous personality that gained her the respect of party nomenclature and of the simplest workers alike? Five years before her death, Maria decided to write an autobiographical film scenario, which was never made: no politics, no personal disclosure, just a romanticized and controlled image of herself, seemingly encrypted to safeguard the integrity of the one thing she had left and unspoilt, her songs.Half a century later, armed with elements of this scenario, fragments of her interviews, letters, articles and her songs, I start my own investigation on her traces. Beyond the censorship and official propaganda, beyond the glamour and the fascination she exerted, I question what was behind the shield of this strong woman on a relentless quest for Romania’s authentic roots. Why Maria became public enemy No 1 of two opposing regimes, the communist and fascist, and how did she survive? Historical archives (propaganda footage, newsreels, fiction) mixed with places and people today weave Maria and Romania’s histories together: it is the tragedy of the individual confronted with an implacable devastating history. My hypothesis is that threatened to be swallowed and ingested alive in the belly of the monster, Maria was broken down to betray her own self. It's a story of dis-empowerment and betrayal. A story of a caged nightingale whose doinas did however survive the shocking cultural wipe-out. They were perhaps a secret redemption door for Maria and for her Romanian people in order to exist and transcend a fake, parochial system of censorship and denunciations.