LFF Review: Bantú Mama

Emma relaxing

We’re not all born equal. While (theoretically) anyone can become rich and successful, where you come from and who your parents are play a huge role in determining your life prospects. What jobs will be available to you. The places you can live. For immigrants, this bar is often set quite low. Simply earning enough to put food on the table and a roof over your head can be a struggle. In order to get more, it might be necessary to turn to more illicit sources of income. In Bantú Mama this has potentially deadly consequences.

On the face of it, Emma (Clarisse Albrecht) appears to be living a life of luxury. However, her idyllic holiday in the Dominican Republic is brought to an end by a phone call from her employer. Arrested at customs and charged with drug smuggling, her future does not look bright. After escaping, she encounters a group of children who offer her shelter in the most dangerous neighbourhood of Santo Domingo. She become both mother and ward, looking for a way to trick fate.

Bantú Mama is a whimsical and compelling portrait of a women whose life has taken an unexpected turn for the worse. At heart, it’s a tale of redemption, but not one with easy answers. As events spin around her, Albrecht is a calming presence at the centre. Ivan Herrera wisely lets his star do the heavy lifting. An expression telling a thousand words. Bantú Mama is a all about second chances. It’s pacing and minimalism will not be for some, but it’s a finely crafted character study.   

Bantú Mama screens at London Film Festival.

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