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“àma Gloria” Is a Moving Tale of Love and Friendship

By Stephanie Ornelas 

When director Marie Amachoukeli was casting the lead role in her film àma Gloria, which premiered on January 23 at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival at the Library Center Theatre in Park City, Utah, she made it clear to her casting director that she did not want to go through an agency. 

A woman with short black hair in a denim jacket speaks to the camera in front of a Sundance Film Festival step and repeat
PARK CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 23: Marie Amachoukeli attends the 2024 Sundance Film Festival “àma Gloria” premiere at the Library Center Theatre on January 23, 2024, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Andrew Walker/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)

“She [the casting director] was a bit pissed off because it was more work. And I said, ‘Please go in the street and find someone,” says Amachoukeli to a giggling audience. 

All laughs aside, that’s exactly what happened. 

“She went out of the office and crossed the street, and there was a little garden, and Louise was there.” 

Just 15 minutes later, that same casting director came back with Louise Mauroy-Panzani, who would go on to deliver a remarkable performance as 6-year-old Cléo, who forms an inseparable bond with her nanny, Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego). 

“I was like, ‘It’s not possible. I could not have found my actress 15 minutes after I asked,” says Amachoukeli, bringing the audience to laughter. 

Audience members were clapping and in tears as the credits rolled for Amachoukeli’s drama; her solo-feature directorial debut, which follows 6-year-old Cléo and her nanny, Gloria, as they spend one last summer together after Gloria gets news that she must return to Cape Verde to care for her own family. 

Although this is Mauroy-Panzani’s first acting role, Amachoukeli explains that after just a week of working with her, she knew she had chosen the right person. 

“I said to my producer, ‘Okay, she’s the one, and we have to accept it. Louise is very funny. When I told her she had the part, she said, ‘Okay, Marie. That’s nice, but I want to read the script now.’ She was six years old, and that was not expected,” laughs Amachoukeli. 

One major challenge Amachoukeli faced was that they did not have the chance to rehearse because the film was made during COVID-19. 

“I was very stressed. We went to Cape Verde to shoot, and [Mauroy-Panzani] had to be in every shot. I wanted to be very close to her, and I was whispering to her all the time: ‘Do this…go in and say that.’ 

“And she was doing the stuff, but she was a bit mechanical because I told her what to do. And after one week, Louise looked at me and said, ‘Marie, you know what, I know my lines.’ She’s a smart little girl, and she’s in the present. She’s a very good listener, and I think that’s very good for an actor. She’s just what she needs, and I’m just the lucky one.”    

Amachoukeli explains how her own experiences with her nanny growing up inspired her to bring this film to life, and during the post-premiere Q&A, she dedicates the project to her. 

“I grew up with her. And when I was six years old, she told me she had to go back to her country to be with her family. It was the [proverbial] end of the world, and I refused to say goodbye to her. She was everything for me. We’re still very close, and she still talks to me like I’m her daughter. But I never asked myself who she was or where she was coming from. 

“In Paris, you have lots of nannies everywhere. And nobody wants to talk about them because, I think, there is something very taboo in this relationship that appears in the house, in this intimate place. Because the parents don’t want to know if there is any love involved,” explains Amachoukeli. 

She continues, “It’s a bit tricky because you can’t say that you love your nannies more than your mother. And most of the nannies I’ve met all share the same story. They have children in their country who they have to leave in order to raise children in Western countries. And when they love the children they take care of, it’s tricky.” 

Amachoukeli paints this picture perfectly in the film, particularly during one especially emotional scene that sends ‘aws’ throughout the Library Center Theatre. 

As Gloria and Cléo are lying in bed, Cléo asks her about the photos she has taped on her ceiling. “This is my family,” replies Gloria. “These are my memories.” 

Cléo turns to her and says, “It’s weird for me because I only have memories of you.” 

To see more of the magic from the 2024 Festival, click here.