When I started to watch MAMBAR PIERRETTE I wasn’t certain if the film was a documentary or a narrative. I had just moved from one film on my slate for Toronto to the next. I wasn’t really aware of what I was seeing I was simply going along my list of films for the day, watch X then move on to Y and so on. As a result I some times have to think about what I am seeing. That was the case here. The film looked like a narrative, but it moved and felt like a documentary. While I wrestled with what the film was for a couple of minutes, I eventually got lost in the film itself and by the end I didn’t care.
The film is the story of Pierrette, a seamstress working in a small village. She is working as much as she can to support not only herself but also her son and sick mother. Times are hard. She is managing to survive but it a daily struggle. As she says at one point so long as she remains healthy she will be able to manage. Over the course we watch as she struggles to get by, deals with various crisis and talks to her friends and customers who stop by her shop and keep her connected to life.
This film is magic.
While the film is a narrative it is a film rooted very much in life as it is lived. Director Rosine Mbakam needs to be praised. Using her skills as a documentary filmmaker to their fullest extent she has a crafted a drama that feels more like a life than most documentaries. Ten or so minutes in I was convinced that I was watching a documentary that simply had a few added shots added in. This is one of the great portraits of the human drive to just go on and survive. As the film ended and life was returning to normal I began to get misty. This wasn’t any contrived triumph moment of anything or a dramatically constructed exclamation point, it was instead a very quiet sigh as if just to say, “such is life”. It was a moment that would mean nothing out of context but coming after 90 or so minutes after the opening it’s a grand summation.
I loved this film. I loved how it made me feel and think.
One of the best films I’ve seen for Toronto and an early favorite for the New York Film Festival as well.