Elza opens in a limited theatrical run this weekend, in NYC at MIST Harlem Cinemas; here's a repost of our interview with the film's star, done over the summer.
French actress Stana Roumillac commanded the big screen in her leading feature film debut Elza. The 2011 French-Goudalupean production screened at the American Black Film Festival a little over a week ago (see my review of the superbly acted, touching tale HERE).
Roumillac was born in Guyana and grew up in Cayenne, where she attended a dance conservatory for 10 years. From a young age, she was passionate about modern dance and classical musical.
She arrived in Paris at the age of 17, where she switched her focus to law school. However, due to her love and aptitude for artistic expression, Roumillac enrolled in several drama workshops.
The actress admits that it is difficult for Black actresses to find roles in French cinema. “It’s easier to star on TV,” says Roumillac in a delightful French accent, “It’s more open to Black casts than cinema,” she adds.
She started her career with notable roles in French television series including 2006’s Une femme d’honneur (Woman of Honor), 2007’s Josephine, ange gardien (Josephine, A Guardian Angel), 2008’s Cellule identite (Cell Identity), 2007-2009’s Diane, femme flic (Diane, Female Cop), 2009’s Plus belle la vie (Most Beautiful Life) among others..
What’s interesting about her starring turn in Montpierre’s Elza is that another actress was already cast for the titular role. Roumillac was actually set to play the role of the mistress of Mr. Desire (her father in the film). However, the lead actress didn’t work out and director Montpierre asked Roumillac to audition for Elza. The decision was made the day before an intense and challenging three-week shoot.
Aside from following the script, director Montpierre allowed Roumillac to trust her insticts to embody Elza. The actress was led by her intuition and imagination. “My feeling, my mind, my heart,” she says when I asked about her inspiration for portraying the tenacious, free-spirited and vulnerable Elza. “We had no time. I understood the story and I felt her like this, but I was scared because it was my first time,” says the 27-year old, adding, “She (Montpierre) didn’t describe her quite like this; it was a surprise for her!”
Roumillac would like to continue working in films. She revealed that she has followed American Black cinema since childhood, just like many Blacks in the Caribbean and France. “It’s not the same in France; we don’t have the economic power like in America,” says Roumillac. She’s a fan of Spike Lee, and grew up watching the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry. “It’s a dream,” says the actress about the possibility of working in American films. Which directors would she like to work with? “Ahh Spike Lee, Nick Cassavettes,” she says excitedly.
Next up, she will appear in the French production Touments D’Amour by Caroline Jules and in Dealer by Black French director Jean-Luc Herbulot, his feature narrative debut.The busy Roumillac is also developing a documentary project co-written with Caroline Pochon, titled Les petits enfants du Bon Dieu (Children of God). The shooting will take place mainly in Guyana and Britain.
Her dream to grace the U.S. screens could very well become a reality next year, if not sooner. She’s looking to travel to New York and Los Angeles in the very near future. With the help of her agent, she hopes to land some work in the states.
And I certainly hope so. It would be unfortunate for those who have yet to Roumillac’s brilliant and superb acting range. We’ll keep a close eye on her; she’s one to watch for.
Watch her must-see impressive reel below, which shows footage of Elza’s climactic scenes, plus her past work in French projects: