SXSW 2021 Review: BANTU MAMA (Dominican Republic)

By Jan Hamilton

Director: Ivan Herrera, Screenwriters: Clarisse Albrecht, Ivan Herrera, Producers: Ivan Herrera, Nicolas LaMadrid, Franmiris Lombert
An Afropean woman escapes after being arrested in the Dominican Republic. She is sheltered by a group of minors, in a dangerous district of Santo Domingo. By becoming their protégée and maternal figure, she will see her destiny change inexorably. Cast List: Clarisse Albrecht, Scarlett Reyes, Arturo Perez, Euris Javiel, Donis Taveras, Jarold Santos (World Premiere)

Emma is a beautiful woman from the central African nation of Cameroon who lives alone in a high-rise in France. One day she goes on vacation to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean, but in truth she is smugglingdrugs for a criminal organization in France. She is arrested at the airport, but escapes after a car crash on the way to jail. Handcuffed, she is helped by a group of teens from the poor neighborhood nearby. The kids,Tina, Shulo, and their young brother Cuki will try to get her a lawyer. They have no mom and their dad is in prison,but he still has some pull in the neighborhood. The kids live alone but they are not destitute, they have a cache of money (from dad?) that Tina, the responsible one, controls. Though younger than Shulo, she tries to do the right thing, Shulo seems to be getting more involved in the local crime.

Emma goes outdoors on day and is picked up by the police for no I.D., her lawyer bribes a guard and she escapes before the police can discover who she is. She becomes close to Tina and Cuki. She finally gets a chance to escape the island but must make a decision that will force she to become less selfish and morecaring. Maybe Emma will figure out she doesn’t need a high-rise to be happy.

The poor neighborhoods are beautifully filmed, the film is great a showing the grace of a simple life, close tonature. It’s not that poverty is great and that there is no crime, it’s just the people have a dignity and mostly live in an atmosphere of co-operation rather than competition. In all, a wonderful film, one of my festival favorites.

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