On the Adamant: A healing community

People living with mental illness, may often feel isolated. In On the Adamant, from documentarian Nicolas Philibert, we see a refuge in the middle of Paris that attracts a people and provides a place of acceptance, dignity, and perhaps healing.

The Adamant is a facility that is moored on the Seine and is part of a mental health network. It serves as a day center where outpatients can come and take part a variety of activities—including a cinema club that has been meeting for ten years, art classes, singing. There are various artistic outlets, plus a sense of community and ownership. The patients are a key part in the planning and programming.

Philibert (who may be best known to American audiences for the wonderful To Be and To Have, about a rural one room school in France) is not new to looking at people with mental health issues. He first visited the subject in his 1997 film Every Little Thing, that watches a psychiatric facility as it plans to perform its summer play. On the Adamant is the first of three films that look at a network of mental health facilities in Paris. Averroès & Rosa Parks is currently playing in France, and La machine à écrire et autres sources de tracers will open there soon. The three films will make a triptych of the network that includes hospitals and home care.

We are there for some weekly planning meetings, for watching people draw and then explain their drawing, some candid conversations, watch as people are encouraged to take part in new ways, or just seeing people enjoy some time with other people. None of the people are labeled. We may be able to tell some of the people dealing with health issues, but often we have no idea who is staff and who are clients.

Philibert lets us meet these people in such a way that we may be drawn to them. Under normal circumstances, we might prefer to turn away because of their appearance or actions, but the film places them before us and invites us to accept them as they are. The film endows them with a dignity that should belong to all people, but that is often absent in our day to day lives.

The film also gives us a sense that this is more than just a gathering place for people with mental health problems. In the various modes of creativity and the accepting community, we see that this is also a place of healing and growth.

On the Adamant is in select theaters on Friday, April 19th, 2024.

Photos courtesy of Kino Lorber.

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