Zona de Alb
Gilles Mercier
2017 - 4 min - Film diaporama sonore - Noir & Blanc - France

In the 1950s, the Romanian authorities announced that leprosy, this "divine punishment" had been eradicated in Romania. In actual fact, all the lepers had been sent in secrecy to Tichilesti and stripped of their official existence, tearing them from their families and social circles. Officially recognised in the 1990s, but admitted nowhere, fourteen villagers remain in this white zone, this territory of the forgotten, the "Zona de Alb".
In 1999 I took a path leading away from the main road that followed the Danube Delta. Passing through a gate, I found myself within a group of anachronistic buildings, attracted by the energy they seemed to emanate. My first encounters with these men and women "struck by divine vengeance" were also touched by this strange feeling of timelessness. Most of the forty residents had lived here for several decades even when their illness had been detected, contained and treated in time. Now stable but marked in the flesh, the patients have learnt to reconstruct a social life in near self-sufficiency, living for the most part in 10m2 dwellings whilst respecting each other’s privacy. Despite their imposed rootlessness, they exhibit an extraordinary humanity, a humanity that persuaded me to return to them following this first encounter.
Sixteen years later, scientific and social progress has not followed the same path. Healthcare, death and inactivity are daily realities but the on-site medical team though currently at a minimum constitutes their link to social life. Pasha, Imma and Grisha don’t differentiate between hope, disillusion and satisfaction for this situation which is nonetheless proclaimed by various national media as being almost eradicated. They all downplay this forced itinerary; they have violent memories of desocialisation that they associate with life on the outside. Some know the joys of a reconstructed family life thanks to the birth of relationships that herald new beginnings outside the community. Several maintain links to the outside world via visiting volunteers and even the rare farmer of adjoining lands who has learnt to accept their presence, their existence. These fourteen remaining residents are intimately attached to this village that they erected and none mean to abandon this land whose future is uncertain due to budgetary restrictions and the deaths of these patients struck by "divine vengeance".
A duty of memory, a hymn to the dignity of these people who, though silenced, live as martyrs.

Author-Director : Gilles Mercier
Photography : Gilles Mercier
Sound : Gilles Mercier
Editing : Gilles Mercier
Delegate Producer : Gilles Mercier


Distributor : Gilles Mercier
Disponible au Club du doc


2017 - FIDMarseille (Festival International de Cinéma), Marseille (France) : Sélection