Directed by: Ivan Herrera
Written by: Clarisse Albrecht & Ivan Herrera
Starring: Clarisse Albrecht, Euris Javiel , Arturo Perez, Scarlet Reyes, Donis Taveras
Even under the strangest of circumstances, humans have a way of connecting like no other species in the world. It can be so seamless even from individuals who do not have much in common, which becomes the undercurrent of this perilous situation found in Bantú Mama. A film allowing me to reconnect with the motherland and adequately telling a lovely story about desperation.
After an arrest in the Dominican Republic, Emma (Clarisse Albrecht) escapes the authorities and ends up in a house of three minors. Now hiding out in the nation’s capital under the refuge of these children, Emma begins to form a bond with them and discovers more about their dire living situation.
Experiencing Bantú Mama issued a bit of a shame response from me because it demonstrated just how few films from the Dominican Republic I have actually seen. With it being the country of my family’s origins, my lack of viewing their cinematic exports is quite dire but at the very least Bantú Mama begins a new journey to rectify with good reason. Experiencing this film came as a nice warm slice of apple pie with how natural the dialects of the characters connected with me. Something not displayed in many of the common Spanish-language films making their way into the United States.
As a narrative, the film finds its balance in both being heartwarming in the way Emma interacts with this family of minors but also the reality of her needing to evade the police. At any moment they can catch her, but as the film further displays the neighborhood she happens to be staying in gives her an advantage as compared to other places. These children survive based on the reputation of their father, who happens to be in prison, thus giving them connections to the gangs of Santo Domingo. There’s a level of respect they receive, which would befuddle many but they’ve had to grow up in these circumstances. It becomes a ticking clock to see if she’ll get found prior to escaping the country, thus maintaining a level of tension amongst the sweet moments of connection.
Connection remains the most important aspect of this film seeing as Emma’s relationship with these children begins rather abruptly and the way she becomes a maternal figure to them gives hope for the rest of humanity. With not having much in common other than the ability to speak Spanish, they form something quite beautiful, which serves as a testament to what this film seeks to achieve as a narrative. Under unlikely circumstances, they somehow manage to not only survive but thrive under their unideal parameters. The danger is always looming and the story never lets you forget it.
With its brevity in length, Bantú Mama gets in and out with the story it wants to tell. It measures desperation in a manner where every action, no matter how strange, makes sense. The symbiotic relationship built in such a brief manner speaks well to humanity as a whole but it also highlights the very troubling aspects of police work in the Dominican Republic. Not everything is rosy and the way Emma gets treated speaks much about the injustices occurring there. A competent and touching film overall and one allowing me to connect back with the art of my parents and ancestors.