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CANNES 2023 Critics’ Week

Marie Amachoukeli • Director of Ama Gloria

"That’s how a child sees the world"


- CANNES 2023: The French director speaks about her first solo effort, an incredibly moving and highly sensitive work about the deep ties between a young French child and her Cape Verdean nanny

Marie Amachoukeli • Director of Ama Gloria

Co-director of Party Girl [+see also:
film review
interview: Marie Amachoukeli, Claire B…
film profile
(the winner of the Golden Camera Award in 2014) Marie Amachoukeli opened the 62nd edition of Critics’ Week, unfolding within the 76th Cannes Film Festival, with a special screening of her first solo feature film Ama Gloria [+see also:
film review
interview: Marie Amachoukeli
film profile

Cineuropa: You hadn’t directed a film since Party Girl in 2014. What motivated you to return with the subject-matter in Ama Gloria?
Marie Amachoukeli: After Party Girl, I wanted to wait a while, because I’d learned that making films in the current economic climate is like giving an organ - that’s how it is for me, in any case. So I only wanted to make another film if it was really close to my heart and felt quite personal. It took a bit of time to find a subject and a story whose development into a film I’d be willing to fight for and which I’d want to see through to the end. I was raised by someone who looked after me, not a nanny exactly but the caretaker of the building where I lived. I was forever in her lodge, with her children, and so on. One day, she returned home to live in Portugal and that was the biggest shock of my childhood. I refused to say goodbye to her on the day. There was something in that totally crazy love I felt for her that I wanted to drill down into. I wanted to explore the relationship between a child and someone who’s paid to look after her. Is it for the money? Out of love? Both? And how all that plays out, in one way or another.

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The entire film is seen through the eyes of the child and it includes a trip to Cape Verde.
It was all about perception. About how, as a result of this event - the woman returning home to her country - the child changes her perception of relationships, of the world and of her life. Taking this to its logical conclusion, Cleo’s character also goes on a physical journey. Seeing what Gloria’s life is like, where she comes from and where she’s going to anchor herself in the future allows Cleo to become more open herself. So Cleo enters the age of reason, changing her viewpoint and her outlook on what once seemed so familiar to her but which ultimately wasn’t. It was also a way of getting deeper inside their relationship and making their story more complex. As for the choice of Cape Verde, this came from my meeting Ilça Moreno Zego who comes from there. I re-wrote the entire film based on what she told me and on where she lived on the island of Santiago.

Everything is filmed very close up to the characters. What was most important to you when it came to the mise en scène?
Firstly, the format is slightly unique, as we made it up in the editing phase (somewhere between 4/3 and 1.85), though we thought about it in the preparatory stage. We had to stay as close to Cleo as possible and totally reflect her viewpoint. And, thanks to this format and this approach towards the world, we highlighted what appeared off-screen. It’s very true to my memories of how I experienced childhood: we don’t have access to much, but our imagination works hard. The camera is at the child’s height and it represents the child’s field of vision, very much up-close and quite low down, because that’s how a child looks at the world. You then imagine what’s behind and either side of her, but you don’t necessarily see all that when you’re small. I also did a lot of work with a long focal lens because the character is short-sighted, so I wanted to capture movements rather than see them. It’s more about pace and impressions than clarity or definition.

Why the decision to incorporate dreamlike animation sequences?
I was really influenced by Mary Poppins, the first film I ever saw, where it veers from the real world to that of Mary Poppins, which is an animated world. I wanted to reproduce that effect, sliding into animated painting, drawings and the imaginary. I thought it was a good fit with the world of childhood and with the way the child’s subconscious expresses itself through moments of bright colour rather than words.

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(Translated from French)

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