Bantú Mama (2021) A Quiet & Gorgeous Multicultural Film (Written By Anna Miller)
Bantú Mama, a film by director Ivan Herrera and one out of the Dominican Republic (the country’s first feature length narrative to be selected at the platform!) had its world premiere at SXSW 2021 Festival, where I was lucky enough to catch it in the lineup.
It follows Emma, an Afropean woman on her journey from Parisian suburbs to rough neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic. After getting caught up in some trouble involving illegal substances, Emma finds herself becoming a mother figure to a community of orphaned children in town who aim to discreetly protect and house her. The film then delves deep into Caribbean culture, themes of human connection, love and scatters the atoms of what the term family means, inaugurating a new view of the expression in a simple, grounding way— the film appears to prefer to show, rather than tell.
And does it ever show— with artistry and finesse; the cinematography is where the film absolutely shines. Gorgeous wide shots of tropical, maze-like neighborhoods personify the well-lived city as a character itself, there are startling close ups of children who wear expressions only weathered adults should ever slip on. Natural mirrors are used to reflect, palm fronds to frame and dust dredged light to add dimension are cleverly used to enhance the narrative in a subtly remarkable manner. Every shot is meticulously given thoughtful setup and care, and it was an absolute feast for the eyes to view— more-so than the majority of the films I’ve recently seen.
The acting is raw and real, making the film feel less like its’ actors are following a scripted piece and more like real humans being captured for a documentary in the most amazing way. Clarisse Albrecht and the posse of youngsters around her give delicately precise performances that shouldn’t be easily forgotten.
Bantú Mama is a quiet film in the loudest way; it is a multicultural story, but more so a human story of trials, human connection, love, family and empathy. It touches on topics from toxic masculinity and corrupt systems to poverty and survival. It has a lot to say, but it doesn’t shout or give you bullet points to follow. No, instead it softly guides you along, asking for your attention and if you offer as such, it will make sure you are rewarded.
Bantú Mama gets a 4/5!