IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF BANTÚ MAMA!
An Afropean woman travels to the Dominican Republic on vacation, but things get sour when drugs are found in her suitcase and get her arrested. When an accident takes place on her way to jail, Emma is rescued by three minors, who provide her shelter in the dangerous slums of Santo Domingo, and Emma starts to develop deep feelings for them, acting like their adoptive mother until a new opportunity presents itself. Bantú Mama is directed by Ivan Herrera and co-written by the film’s leading star Clarisse Albrecht; it’s a sweet tale of redemption and finding a new purpose in life, with colorful performances, endearing directing and astounding cinematography. It’s a film that manages to embody many artistic features and provides the audience with the entertainment required to meet a new and fresh story about being grateful of the many opportunities that life provides us.
Clarisse Albrecht is extraordinary in her first leading role and it is clear for the public that she knows exactly what to do to hold a grip and keep us invested throughout the whole film. Bantú Mama is also a tale of culture and escapes the usual Hollywood formula of relying on nonsensical or cliched romances, providing a feast for the eyes of many. Even if it should have been sharper in developing the characters and providing a more deep and elaborated background for them, the performances help the audience feel close to them, with a sweetness that becomes infectious and will constantly make everyone smile. Ivan Herrera is able to concoct a synesthetic film, in which, through sound and images, we can almost smell and feel in our skin the different settings in which Bantú Mama takes place. By knowing his way with the camera in both in and outdoor environments, the audience never feels tired of following this woman’s journey and, more importantly, it gives a sense of a Dominican Republic that is polarized and that this paradise camouflages a harsh reality of the many children that live in the nearby areas of the most turistic spots of the country.
It is clear to the viewer that Herrera wants this reality to be told, not by enhancing its most violent side, but its most beautiful one. How many children are left alone after their parents are taken away by the police? How do they manage to survive? Does our environment define who we are and translate our moral values? Bantú Mama may not be perfect, but it surrounds itself with important questions that are answered through the eyes of the children that are fighting to survive in a place that doesn’t care about them. The connection forged between Emma and Cuki, Chulo and T.I.N.A. is one that translates the spirit of the slums, more than being constantly depicted by the criminal overview people already have of them. There is kindness in the most unlikely scenarios and there is hope that Bantú Mama will reach its audience in this year’s SXSW Film Festival. The film would have profited more if Albrecht and Herrera’s writing allowed the story to add more material to make the characters even more touching to the viewer, providing a deeper dramatic weapon that would consequently help the film to be even richer than it already is.
With a message that is deeply impactful, Bantú Mama urges the need of trying to overcome the stereotypical image of the slums and that violence is not what defines them, even if it unfortunately is adjacent to the terrible conditions people live in, but love, acceptance, hospitality and humbleness are the biggest values that are not often portrayed in cinema. For Emma, being with these children means finding a new purpose in life, knowing how to be humble and to leave the past behind her and trying to be a better, more caring person in the future. With adorable and heartful performances, Bantú Mama is a sweet and absorbing little film that could have been even greater, but ultimately makes its message seen and heard, providing the amount of entertainment that audiences will certainly appreciate.
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Title: Bantú Mama
Original Title: Bantú Mama
Director: Ivan Herrera
Runtime: 77 min.
Trailer | Bantú Mama