MY 4 STARS LIFE – DALILA’S DIARY – Alice Gussoni – RAI – Italy

subtitled video | 28 min

“A microphone is a magic wand, waved against silence.
A recorder preserves the stories that microphones catch.
And radio casts the stories to a broad audience — bringing us together in special ways.
We need more young voices, young stories in our lives.
Make your microphone magical.
Break our silence.”
Susan Stamberg, National Public Radio


Dalila is 20 years old.
She was born in Italy to an Arab father and an Italian mother.
For over 6 years she has been living with her two little siblings and her parents in a 40 square meter apartment in Via Prenestina, on the outskirts of Rome, inside a former hotel illegally occupied by several hundred people in housing emergency.
Compelled to move here following the dismissal of their father, the specter of forced eviction and the fear of ending up on the street from one day to another hang over their domestic life.

Over 7 months Dalila has recorded a sound diary of her days, offering a very intimate listening point that goes directly to the heart of the problem.
The sounds of everyday life, the Roman dialect mixed with Arabic spoken by her siblings, her father’s language, the TV almost always on in the background, the music, the mobile phone ringing, create the soundscape of a day that clearly wants to be like that of many other people.
Dalila tries to find a job, helps her siblings with their homeworks, argues with parents, confides in her friends.
But the horizon remains closed by a cloud that does not allow her to look into the future with hope.
For those, like her, who do not have a family behind them as a support, it is difficult to find their way around and live life to the fullest, which can allow them to fulfill their aspirations and dreams.


Production period: November 2018 / May 2019
Place: Rome
Author: Alice Gussoni
Broadcasted by: RAI Radio 3 – TreSoldi, June 2019 Length: 27 minutes 52sec

Produced by

Alice Gussoni


18 thoughts on “MY 4 STARS LIFE – DALILA’S DIARY – Alice Gussoni – RAI – Italy


    The main character of this documentary is Dalia.
    It´s her power, her presence, her struggles and thoughts that makes the documentary.
    There is no quest, no turning points no dramatic music or narrator, yet I am thrilled.
    I am invited to her family, to her life.
    The scenes are naked and straight forward and very much alive.
    It´s not until the scenes towards the end when Dalia helps her brother and sister with their homework that I realize in full how very poor the family is.
    There is no table in the room where her sister can write her essay, she has to sit by the window to get some light to work.
    The documentary really shows in a very strong, direct and unsentimental way the living conditions of a young woman and her family whose situation can change very quickly to the worse.
    The editing, the strong main character, the recordings and the scenes,
    I like it all very much.

  2. Hi Dalila and Alice, it has been a very interesting insight into living conditions at roman suburbs. You invited us to join every day live. It is showing – not talking about. Always reporting at eye level. The decision/idea to give Dalila the recording equipment was fruitful, because it enabled the listener to be part of this family life. The editing was very carefully made – Dalila and her family were treated respectful, the insight was close but not too intimate. Dalila recorded over 7 months – therefore we would have expected a bit more developement: for example – did Dalila go to the job interview at the beauty salon? And what happened?

    1. HI Eva, thank you for your quest. In over 7 months Dalila changed several jobs, but neither one was with a regular contract, so every time they ended up with no history to tell… She says this in the doc. In the beginning, I’ve tried to push her to bring the microphone with her outside, but she never did. She just recorded the walking time she spends going here or there, the street noises, the public transportation.. and so on…so I stopped asked her to do something she was just too shy to do by herself and I didn’t want to do – going after her with the mic – because I didn’t want to bother her. This was our deal. If you are curious to know how is she doing now, she finally found a job, in a saloon…but it happened almost one year later the end of the documentary, so we are talking of 12 months ago… Things hasn’t changed so much for her family, they are still there, waiting for something happens.

  3. Essential radio. What a talent is Dalila. Hope, fear, struggle for a better and decent life, an immense cry recorded on 40 square meter. Even in the shouting of the father there is love. Very mobile microphone, sense of relevant scenes ( Dalila helping her sister with school work, the news of the day). Relevant mix of the internal and external world. Very touching but never over-sentimental. Question : who discovered this radio pearl and what can offer the RAI for your future?

  4. Essential is a good word! The choice of its radical form is audacious and serves its content very well. The recording device and smart editing allow us to enter the life of this family without feeling like voyeurs. Sharing Dalila’s daily life in this way allows us to understand many things, beyond what sociological studies and other analyses can teach us. We don’t fall into a misery look or a romanticization of poverty, we remain stuck to the voices and sounds that tell the ordinary experience of inequalities of many people. Dalila’s voice expresses some things out loud and the editing suggest others in a fine interweaving. The sounds and situations she collects stimulate our imagination. It’s a documentary that uses the strength of the sound medium while trusting the listener’s sensitive intelligence. Thank you for this work. Could you tell us how you brought Dalila to record herself in this way?

    1. Hi Charlotte, it’s an interesting question I did to myself during that time. I can say It was a natural process…I mean, I didn’t have any hurry to close my project, I was working just to try to find out the better way to tell her story. Time was the key. So very slowly I started asking her to record day by day life. The funniest thing for her was I asked to record the sounds of daily life, lunch, make-up time, without doing nothing, just turning rec on the microphone. And then she became confident and creative, for example, she started recording the phone call with speakerphone on but I didn’t ask her to do it. She was engaged very strongly in this project because she felt she was helping her community to break out the silence. I think that nothing could be a stronger motivation than this feeling.

  5. Pure radio Alice! Congrats for this heart touching documentary. Feels so simple, yet I can imagine the work you had to build this narrative arch so well. You can also tell Dalila she has a future on the radio. I was wondering: what was the recorder Dalila was using for her diary?

  6. Very raw, authentic and honest thirty minutes with no line scripted. Beautiful!

    Could you please let us know how you found Dalila, Alice? After broadcasting such type of documentary audience sometimes offer helpful hand – did anything like this happen after the story was published? I guess it did not according to your previous answers but I am wondering why.

  7. Dear Alice,
    thank you very much for such an honest and raw documentary. I think that you brought us a very authentic insight into the life of Dalila (and her family) that is not easy. It’s very important that it was only Dalila and her relatives who were telling their story – since Dalila had the microphone with her we could listen to her experiences, thoughts, and stories exclusively from her point of view. The diary entries were recorded from the place that is her home but at the same time, she can’t feel very secure here. The fact that you did not use any extradiegetic material (such as music) and that the storyline was not scripted is helping the authenticity of the documentary. The story is therefore not pathetic and listeners can almost feel like they are sitting in the same room with Dalila and her family. You did a great job showing us this uneasy life situation with such lightness yet brutal honesty.

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