Sons have been arguing with their mothers since the beginning of time, but Paloma Sermon-Daï’s documentary shows an argument that holds greater pathos than you might think. Damien Samedi (of the film title) is asked what he would do if his mother were to die. He refuses to answer her question, which leads his mother Ysma to tell him his reticence will give her cancer. Thus the camera projects his worried face, as he comes to realise a boy’s worst fear, that his first teacher and most reliable companion may not answer him the next time he calls.
But Damien isn’t like most other boys-au contraire, he’s a 43-year-old man battling addiction. Unable to face reality, he locks himself away from the world, with only the prospect of his mother’s appearance to comfort him. In his mother, he has a best friend and a worst enemy, someone to pick him up, but there to tell him the hard truths. Like many people on this planet, he struggles to bring his internal reality outside his front gates, yet the film showcases his loneliness with gentle lyricism and infinite respect. He smokes freely, his back turned to the camera, unwilling to explain his predicament to an audience that may not want to hear it. And yet it’s clear from his body language-arched shoulders, gaunt face- that he’s deeply miserable, and aches for some form of purpose to carry on with his life.
No, Petit Samedi is not an easy watch, but it’s an important one, and the film goes to great lengths to demonstrate the importance of family above all things. Despite the hurt he has caused her, Ysma loves Damien unconditionally, and she even promises to tickle his toes in the years after she has left this world for another. Death hangs in every frame, as does life, and the characters grow more confident in themselves when they realise just how compatible the two forms are. Together, they write down his life achievements, and it seems he lived an accomplished life (he worked as a greenkeeper in his younger days), before he was struck down by a cruel illness. More happily, Damien feels he can overcome the hurdles of addiction and return to the man he was once supposed to be. Like any illness, hope is important to overcome addiction, but Damien is lucky to have the support of his loving mother. It’s the little things, right?
Watch Petit Samedi online and for free throughout the entire month of December only with ArteKino.