Stéphanie Pillonca: “In my work as a director, I try to convey a word of the Gospel”

Summer 2000, I’m 29 years old. I host a daily program on TF1. After spending a few days on vacation in Saint-Tropez (Var), I decided to accompany my younger sister Déborah, 13 years my junior, to World Youth Day. Walking from Marseille to Rome in his company will do me good after the holidays and the jet-set! Of course, it is about praising God by singing, by praying, but at the time, all that does not really concern me.

As I walk, I speak with people marked by hardship, having experienced chaotic journeys. I meet people anchored in life who put their pains, their sorrows and their hopes (their sins too) every day at the foot of the cross of Christ.

“The Experience of the Lord’s Mercy”

During these few days, I realize that believing is given to everyone. I realize that my vision of Christians is very far from what a daily Christian can be. Before my eyes evolve people who have recognized in Christ the face of love and forgiveness.

Thus, it is therefore possible to continue one’s human path without being judged, but quite simply loved. I never thought about it until then and it literally upsets me. The dictates and dogmas of the Catholic religion bothered me a lot. But that’s because I hadn’t experienced the Lord’s mercy. Suddenly, I understand the mission of Christ, what God, by becoming man to be closer to us, came to tell us. I have returned from Rome converted and baptized.

If I wasn’t raised in the Christian faith, I remember as a child, I relied on someone else at important times. I did not know to whom, surely to God, because even without having received a religious education, I was aware of an entity above us. Son of an Italian immigrant, my father had a very beautiful little missal.

I liked its contours, its gilding, the smell of the leather cover, the silk border that marked the pages. I felt something quite mystical when I leafed through it. My parents did not practice, but they liked to visit the abbeys. I was very admiring of those who believed, of those who were lucky enough not to be alone. I was quite curious and impressed by the fact that we could believe together in the same plan of God.

“Conversion and motherhood have changed my life”

After my baptism, I did not immediately understand that the path of the convert is strewn with pitfalls. Initially, one can be exalted, proud because one feels carrying a truth. We want to convince. Looking back, I think I lacked humility. I was in something frenetic, burning which took me a little away from tolerance. The convert can judge those who do not adhere to his creed.

For me, proselytism is a bit the enemy of faith. However, I was warned: “Don’t turn your back on who you are! » The experience of Christ is a very small, very delicate experience, which we must cultivate on a daily basis, not something flashy. I try, every day in my life as a woman, to take these small steps.

Two things really changed my life: conversion and motherhood. I was born to life with my children. I took the measure of existence by becoming a mother. By being afraid for someone other than oneself, by becoming aware of one’s responsibilities, one measures the sanctity of life. What is not easy is to understand where one is expected.

I strongly believe in the talents that have been given to us, in the mission of individuals on Earth. We are all called to witness not by our words but by our actions. We are passing through, prey to temptations, antagonisms, pains, doubts. We are sinners, but everyone can find their way.

“I try to carry a word of love, of the Gospel”

When I converted, I stopped working in television because I thought what I was doing was frivolous, flashy, superficial. It was because I had not put him at the service of God. Even by making fun, you can shine a light on fragility. In my work as a director, I try to convey a word of love, a word of the Gospel. When we think about it, Christ left us only one commandment: that of love. Through my films, I try to reconcile, to pacify hearts, to appease, to repair.

If God does it, I really want to do it for him. It’s my way of honoring my contract. This is my “business” with Jesus! In doing so, I will be forgiven for my many shortcomings, my great weaknesses and my gray areas. I turn down a lot of projects. Because the question that guides me is: “Can it do any good? By getting involved in this film, am I an instrument of peace? I don’t want to be just an instrument of emotion, pleasure, desire, even if that’s good too, I need added value.

Stéphanie Pillonca, at the preview of her film Handigang, in Lyon, on April 14 and 15.


“The Beauty and Preciousness of Life”

In 2005, when my sister announced to us that she was taking the veil, that she was giving her life to God, I did not understand her decision. I felt a lot of pain, anger. I was very unhappy. I experienced it as a great pain at the start. While I was a believer, in my eyes, this life of confinement constituted a vain existence. It took me a while to accept it. It was necessary to tame the absence.

She told me: “You will see, we will be together every day. » I didn’t believe a word of it and in the end, I think she was right. I made two documentaries about my sister, a nun in the community of the Little Sisters of Bethlehem. I wanted to show the impact that the entry into the orders of a member of his family can have. By rubbing shoulders with certain nuns who have lived for decades in silence, fasting, isolation from the rest of the world, you realize that to believe is just to love.

This experience made me realize that human beings are afraid of what they don’t know. It is the same thing that is played out in the fear of disability. We prefer not to see who is different, to put fragility at a distance. That’s why I try to open my eyes with my films. I would like us all to see each other as brothers. We must dare to go beyond our apprehensions, our concerns.

When I met Alex, the heroine of my first documentary, I will walk to the sea, I perceived its fragility, its strength, its light. I had before me someone who had come close to death and who had things to tell us about the beauty and the preciousness of life. If I hadn’t met this girl, I wouldn’t have become the director I am today.


“Addressing disability: putting back at the heart of life the one we don’t want to see”

When you want to address disability in a fiction or a documentary, it’s always a way of the cross. Despite everything, I know why I choose to direct certain films. But we have to convince the decision-makers, the channel bosses to give visibility to this theme. And then, I have to live up to the experience of the people I film. let me love was an experience that transformed me. I had known Cécile Martinez for years. We were dancing in the same little village in the Var where I grew up. When I discovered his work in his inclusive dance company, I saw a person with a mission.

This need to put back at the heart of life the one we don’t want to see, the one we don’t know within our society is capital. When I offered to put my camera in the middle of her dancers, she couldn’t believe it. “Who will this interest? », she told me. There is a lot of humility among those who mobilize for the most vulnerable among us. Seeing her evolve, I understood one thing: it is by giving yourself to others that you find yourself and build yourself.

Disability, a source of inspiration
After starting out as an actress and columnist on television, Stéphanie Pillonca embarked on directing. Author of 11 documentary and fiction films, she began to explore the theme of disability following her meeting with Alex, a young woman with a disability. In 2020, in Learn to love yourself (M6), it addresses the difficulties of a couple faced with the birth of their daughter with Down syndrome. Released at the beginning of May, Handigang, with Théo Curin, is available on the Salto streaming platform. His next film, I will go after my dreams, with Samuel Allain Abitbol, ​​actor with Down syndrome, will be visible on M6 in September 2022.
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The stages of his life
Born in Hyères (Var).
1998 Columnist and presenter on TF1.
2000 Takes part in WYD in Rome where she decides to be baptized.
2002 Birth of his son, Victor.
2006 Birth of his daughter, Yona.
2012 Directed his first documentary on the theme of disability I will walk to the sea, broadcast on Arte.
2014 Directed two documentaries My little sister and absolute love, on his sister, a nun in Israel.
2018 Realized let me love (Art).

Stéphanie Pillonca: “In my work as a director, I try to convey a word of the Gospel”