AMA GLORIA (France, 2023), the first film in competition for Giffoni53, Generator +18 section, is director Marie Amachoukeli’s signature story of her own family and many others.
Who is the nanny? She is not just the “substitute” for parents who have to be absent. On the contrary, she can become an integral part of the family, if she touches the right chords and turns her job – taking care of people – into a piece of her heart. So that day when she tells the little ones who have grown up, “I don’t see you anymore, you’ve grown up and you don’t need me anymore,” or “I’m leaving your house, or rather our house is back in my house,” that day is a scar, a mark. Or perhaps a seed in the life of a family. AMA GLORIA (France, 2023), the first film in competition for Giffoni53, Generator +18 section, is director Marie Amachoukeli’s signature story of her own family and many others. “I talk about the woman, a Portuguese immigrant, who worked as a caregiver in the apartment building where I lived,” Amachoukeli explains, “I spent most of my childhood with her children. When I was six years old, she told me she was going back to her homeland with her husband to open a business and start a new life near her family. It was the first big shock of my life. Today we are still in touch, we send each other postcards, she calls me on my birthday, and when I visit her in Portugal, there are pictures of me among those of her children and grandchildren. She still calls me “my daughter.” With this film, I wanted to talk about people who take care of children for a living and how the emotional bond sometimes goes beyond the predefined limits of one’s job. In our society, where motherhood is sanctified, I think it is taboo to say that not only parents can burst with love for their children or that, on the contrary, a child can feel that absolute love for a person who is not a parent. You don’t even tell your family. It is a secret, almost clandestine, unspoken love.” Against this background and heritage of affection stands AMA GLORIA. The title is already everything: a strong love story between the nanny and her little girl. She goes so far as to say, “She is like a daughter,” and the people in her village scold her. “You already have two children at home,” they tell her. Cléo, the young protagonist of the film, only finds her smile again when she visits her in Cape Verde for the vacations.
It is here that he finds his world again, even though it is thousands of miles away from his home. But what is it and where is home really for each of us? “Gloria,” he tells her, “I have memories only with you. She learns to swim in the Cape Verdean sea, touches the belly of Nanda, Gloria’s daughter, had her own idea of family that incorporated Gloria and now must graft herself as a guest into a new family…that always incorporates Gloria. With the people of Cape Verde she eats with freshly caught roasted fish and priva to overcome the distrust of Cesàr, her other son. He fills his eyes with new colors and knows new smells. The pain felt at Gloria’s first goodbye seems to be over: they have found each other on another continent, and now she must make the most of their last summer together. She promised: “We will see each other again.” Clèo had made her promise it by “spitting in the palm of her hand, like a real promise.” Smiles, lightheartedness, Nanda’s baby was born, Clèo even got a tan, but there also came a time for goodbyes and much jealousy as he heard her lullaby sung now for little Santiago, who even became a rival. “I will come to pick you up at the airport,” Papa tells her, “and I have found a nice young lady who will take care of you when you return to Paris. A debate follows at the end of the film. Jurors’ opinions are diverse, mixed. It is the story of a visceral, intimate, strong relationship, from almost mother to almost daughter. “Clèo’s interiority grows,” says one juror, “but there are characters around that are too firm and obvious. One juror disagrees: “It wasn’t supposed to be an exaggeration of inner evolution. I really like the sense of touch in the different stages of life: touching to explore and to know, to seek a relationship with things and people. It is a film that I enjoyed and I cried four times.” “The film openly communicates that it does not want to be interested in other characters,” adds another Giffoner in the discussion, “It is not important to highlight other characters but the child’s vision and personality. The narrative focus is/must be the little girl. It is a sifting of images in a short time, because the goal is to imprint strong feelings in a short time. The stylistic choices-the choice in particular to use the camera a lot by producing continuous cuts taking care of the detail-adds emotional charge. This is the real secret of the film.” Also striking was “the particular use of water. Water is training, water is used as a travel and knowledge but it also has a cathartic power of liberation from fears.”