A two-month hospital stay marks the start of a journey through the memories of a woman, the filmmaker. Invisibly providing voiceover, she returns to 1949, to the staircase she would take down to the water as a child in Marseille, where she was born. This leads her to Antwerp, England, New York, Paris and other places she visited as a child, teen or adult.
Images of cities and landscapes interlarded with archival footage of playing children, ships and ports are animated by memories of precious moments, joy and pain, her first steps as an artist and the people important to her, including her grandfather, her older sister and mainly her son Jan, with whom Hänsel, a familiar name at IFFR, is still really close. Il était un petit navire, after a French nursery rhyme, is a poetic, candid reflection; an ode to life.