ABOUT THE FILM
Surviving Amina is a love story challenged by illness and death, an intimate diary on resilience and hope. Itâs a compelling lesson on life that explores how we construct meaning from events that defy our emotional understanding: the illness and loss of a child. New York and Italy set the backdrop for this provocative and engrossing portrait of a family of young artists through a three years period marked by the Leukemia diagnosis of their second child, baby Amina, and the aftermath of her death. Shot in a veritĂ© style in New York and Italy, this documentary doesnât follow the medical details; it focuses on the emotional journey of this Swiss-Italian couple as they try to cope with happiness and sorrow, love and contempt, illness and fear.
They have to look after a sick baby, whose nature is tremendously happy, while also taking care of their eldest child, who is equally buoyant and magnetic. In stark contrast the couple’s relationship turns dark, bitter and antagonistic as they deal with the ordeals of hospitals, work, debts, fears and daily challenges.
Surviving Amina is not only a chronicle of a dreadful disease; itâs a realistic, sobering and yet incredibly inspiring chronology of love and resilience bounded on intimacy, truth and hope. Without ever judging and with immense sensibility it raises disturbing questions about how we confront the most extreme of circumstances.
Little did I know that asking my friend Anne Lamuniere to shot her second childâs birth would take me on a three-year journey that many people live only in their own flesh, silently without any witnesses. Four months after Aminaâs birth, the baby was rushed into the hospital. After her Leukemia diagnosis, Anne asked me to follow her family on camera. She wasnât looking for statistics or difficult medical procedures to show. She wanted me to be a witness of her daily routines and needs in the face of her daughter illness. She wanted to use her family’s experience as a way to help others to find the courage to survive their fears.
Thatâs how “Surviving Amina” was born. But what it started as a movie that wanted to focus on the ordeals of living with cancer it took a much more intimate turn. As a close friend of Anne, I had unusual and unique access to her universe. While shooting, I realized that the camera became the mirror to which Anne could look at herself and try to make sense of the experience she was going through. It became a cathartic instrument for her, and the same happened to Tommaso, Amina’s father, who was having an experience as hard as Anne’s, but very different in its nature. Between them, a child, Francesco, fighting for his parents attention and as the backbone of all them, Amina, her sickness and her joyful nature.
When Amina passed away I wondered how they would survive after one of the hardest possible lost that any human can go thorough. That’s why I decided to keep shooting and try to understand how humans learn to overcome loss and sorrow, how we make sense of life after the death of a loved one. They were brave enough to share their feelings with me on camera. I am truly grateful because their story is empowering and inspiring not only for people dealing with illness and grief but for each one of us.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion):
âGrief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, incosolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be âhealingâ. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itselfâ.
DOCTORS VIEW’S OF SURVIVING AMINA:
Eduardo Tejera, member of the Ethical Committee of Donostia Hospital:
“It is excellentÂ for the medical world precisely because of its experientialÂ approach as opposite as the more medical approach that other documentaries have.Â I think it raises someÂ fundamental questions to understand andÂ learn to manageÂ moodsÂ and reactions of parentsÂ with a babyÂ really sick. I am sure this compendiumÂ of lifeÂ in its purest formÂ is going to help manyÂ people to understandÂ and appreciateÂ many things about their own lives. Thank you for doing this movie, I can tell it wasn’t an easy task”.