“we are at the end of the road, it must be unlocked”

Director of the Passe Muraille company, Céline Brunelle has been fighting for almost two years to obtain the regularization of one of her actors. If she doesn’t get her papers, she threatens to start a hunger strike from 9 December.

It’s a filmmaker’s cry for help to her co-writer and friend. Professional company founder The passage of the wallCéline Brunelle is preparing for a hunger strike if the situation of José Manzambi, an apprentice actor-musician of Congolese origin (DRC) is not regularized.

Slammer, singer, actor and dancer, the young man flourishes today on the tables within the Samaritan troupe. But his past threatens to destroy everything.

Born in Congo, the young artist grew up in Angola, “in a climate of violence“. Considered a witch child, he is hunted down and grows up on the street: “I started dating. I was in the bad life and then I met people who made music and I can say that it was through music that I found my way out.“.

José arrived in France in 2017, at the age of 16 with important documents. Arriving in Picardy after a passage in Auvergne, he is cared for by the social assistance for children, and resumes his journey to high school in the school town until he meets Céline. While auditioning in Amiens as an actor, the director falls in love.

The first time I saw José on stage, when he had never performed a play before, I was absolutely overwhelmed and touched to my heart. He has this accuracy probably because of his life course that takes him to this depth. He instinctively plays fair. And suddenly with work he becomes out of the ordinary“.

Since that day Céline Brunelle has decided to work with him. Their latest show “Du silence à l’explosion”, is played at the festival off Avignon. But at the age of 21 José is forced to leave French territory.

The Prefecture claims that he left his country with false documents as an adult when he has already produced legalized birth certificates three times, re-establishing his identity and date of birth, Celine protests. For more than a year and a half we have been offering an experimental professionalisation contract which was drawn up with our skilled operator. It could be, for a long time after all, intermittent of the show if it had been regularized sooner. There are 40 cultural professionals who support it. Last year, Ms. Roselyne Bachelot was informed of this support, through the cabinet of Gérald Darmanin. Signora Schiappa called the prefect. Still nothing, still no regularization“.

“It will be the sixth time we will pass, added José Manzambi. It’s always the same stories. You have to redo the cards. They say ‘there is still one card that doesn’t fit’. We redo the same cards. We give. It is always like this”.

When questioned, the Prefecture of the Somme indicated: “In May 2022, an application for a residence permit was submitted. The practice exam is currently running its normal course. We have not been contacted by the interested party or by an intermediary after the filing of the file”.

Faced with this situation, Céline questions herself. After going through all the procedures, she feels like she has arrived “at the end of the road” : “me, questions me about: are we artists useful to society given that there, at the center of the debates, there is talk of possibly regularizing the people who could be useful to us in what are called occupations of scarcity, so are we useful?

To convince the Prefecture of Amiens, if José Manzambi does not obtain his residence permit, for “service rendered to culture“, Céline Brunelle will go on hunger strike on December 9, the day after a performance at the Espace Saint-André d’Abbeville.

I find myself having no choice but to put my life on the line to save his.

Celine Brunel

I thought Europe was heaven. I can tell it’s the jungle. But let’s try to do with it, build ourselves with it”, concludes José.

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