They live among us and yet they remain invisible. They clean our toilet, make our beds and take care of our parents. We let them into our home, but hardly anyone knows their story. Three mothers leave the abject poverty of Moldova to illegally work in Austria and Italy as cleaning ladies. While these women separate from their families and their homes to follow the dream of a better life, their children grow up alone.


They give their savings to the traffickers and risk their lives on their trip to Western Europe: Aurica, Raia and Natasa, three mothers from a small Moldovan village.

They leave their humble homes, the broken roads, the dilapidated schools and the countless abandoned houses behind to work in Austria or Italy as cleaners or care workers. Here they live a life in the underground - a tough job, without valid documents, unprotected and without health care - separated from their children and families for years. They send the little that remains of the hard-earned Western money home to their families.

But their desire for a brighter future and a better life comes at a high price: After all these years the return looks different than planned. After a long time away from home, the children are grown and the husbands estranged. The social gulf that they sought to overcome threatens to tear apart the families once and for all. Having never really arrived and been accepted in the West, they find that they have become alienated from their homeland.

"MAMA ILLEGAL" portrays seven years in the lives of the three women. The camera is present during tragedies as well as in moments of joy. A film about the price of the dream of a better life.


About the Film

They are silent helpers, almost no one knows them. In the evening, when their employers come home, they are usually already gone. They find he reward for what they do ready in an envelope or on a plate in the hall. Thus they live among us but are not seen. They know intimate details of the private lives of their employers, while they, in turn, do not even know their last names. "MAMA ILLEGAL" lends three of these anonymous private household helps and care assistants a voice, thus giving the topic of "illegal immigration" a face. A moving film about a current topic that affects us - and touches us.

With his first feature length documentary "MAMA ILLEGAL" the ORF journalist Ed Moschitz ("Am Schauplatz") presents an accurate long-term study: for seven years he accompanied three women from a small Moldovan village. Women who are struggling with different problems, but whose story is similar in one crucial point: they come from a country with no perspective. Unemployment is tremendous and the job opportunities almost zero. However, the prices in the stores are similar to those in Western Europe. Many see the illegal entry into the EU in order to clean households or to care for people for very little money as their last resort. This is the only way for them to earn some money and pursue their dream of a better future.

For this dream they pay a large price: they leave their children and usually do not see them for years. A return or just a visit is difficult for legal reasons, the journey - organized by traffickers - is expensive and dangerous. This forces the women to stay abroad, usually longer than originally planned. Here they live illegally, mainly without rights, without protection and without medical care. For those left behind, the world goes on, they have to solve their problems alone and distance leaves its mark on a whole generation.

With "MAMA ILLEGAL" the award-winning journalist Ed Moschitz creates a touching film debut. The film sensitively chronicles the lives of three women: Their fears and the uncertainty of their illegal status, but also the consistency and the tenacity with which they handle the adversities of their lives. Moschitz does not take sides in his film, but he raises "a lot of questions about those circumstances that lead to illegal immigration, personal decision-making and institutional responsibilities" ¹.

"MAMA ILLEGAL" introduces us to the everyday reality of people who live among us and yet remain "invisible". The film discusses what is normally concealed. Where mostly prejudices and stereotypes dominate the climate of opinion, this film shows a piece of authentic reality - and leaves it to the viewers to form their own opinion.

The year-long legal battle with FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache in the wake of Moschitz' award-winning "Am Schauplatz" documentary "Am rechten Rand" of 2010 is dynamite to the theatrical release. Strache had alleged that Moschitz had instigated two young right-wing extremists to shout “Heil Hitler” at an FPÖ rally and that the videotape of the ORF had been manipulated to cover up this "incitement to re-engagement in National Socialist activities."

Unfounded allegations, as it turned out now. The case, instigated by the FPÖ, has long been dismissed. Still pending, however, is a case against party leader Heinz-Christian Strache for false testimony. A conclusion of this process is not yet in sight. Although there are already two negative reports, which showed that the tape was not tampered with, the public prosecutor of Wiener Neustadt wants yet another, third, advisory opinion. However, the authority could not yet find an institute, which has the required technical equipment.


¹) From the statement of the jury on the occasion of awarding the grand prize to "MAMA ILLEGAL" at the Human Rights Film Festival "One World" in Brussels in May 2012.