As I’m told, motherhood can be as beautiful as it is challenging. I’m confident that Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) has been told this many a time, but also certain that she’s never quite listened to those words until now.
Living happily in her little community in Accra, pregnant for the man she unconditionally, but stupidly loves, Essuman’s joyous existence is broken when she gives birth early and discovers that her child has a cleft lip (aka cleft palate), an opening in the lip and the roof of his mouth. Saliently saddened by baby Nuku’s deformity, she soon after discovers that he also isn’t growing correctly, and has both cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Even her dreamboat boyfriend Edjah, whom she callously stole from her neighbor, disowns her and the baby.
Only her barren best friend Asantewaa (Akofa Edjeani) has got Essuman’s back against the hordes of old wives’ tales and superstition that exclaim the young mother has a ‘dirty womb’ and that Nuku’s disabilities are the work of the devil. Though repeatedly going through several crises of confidence and selfishness, Essuman still manages to search for cures – from doctors, to bushmen, to religious leaders. But she ultimately discovers that her true path may be back home in the rural mountain region, where the souls of children are said to wait for a promising future.
There’s no mistaking that Children of the Mountain is a lot to take in. Essuman’s actions, and ignorance, are often alarming, but also make for some good armrest-clenching drama. Initially, baby Nuku’s disabilities made the tensions in Lee Daniels’ 2009 movie Precious look like a fairytale, but he soon warms your heart, as does his mother’s struggles. Director Priscilla Anany, a Ghanian native who migrated to the United States in her youth and studied filmmaking stateside, expertly displays the ups and downs of motherhood and womanhood. Anany surrounds her protagonist with all the extra-negative and extremely positive examples of both, and of life.
With a wonderfully set cast and fluid drama and direction, Children of the Mountain is one of the most refreshing African-focused tales to come out of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. That an actual African perspective tells it makes the film all the more worthwhile.
BaL Festival Rating: 4/5
Screenings and Venues:
Thursday April 21, 7:00pm at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea
Friday April 22, 4:00pm at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea
Director/Writer: Priscilla Anany
Cast: Rukiyat Masud, Grace Omaboe, Akofa Edjeani, Adjetey Annang, Agbeko Mortty (Bex), Dzifa Glikpo, Mynna Otoo
Lanuage: Twi, with subtitles
Runtime: 100 min.
Nkosi Coiffure (part of the “Learning Curve” short films block)
directed by Frederike Migom
in Flemish, French, and Lingala subititles
In this short film, a white woman storms in from off the street after fighting with her boyfriend, interrupting a normal day in an African hair salon in Brussels. While the women try to calm Eva, the ‘mama’ of the salon confronts the boyfriend, but everything changes within when the women find out what the fight was all about.
Initially, Nkosi Coiffure felt like your average “Black women will impart sage wisdom to distressed white woman” tale (always more dubious when its actual Africans imparting said knowledge), and yes, there is some of that still here, but by the film’s end it became more about female empowerment and its varied, and all too relevant, outlooks.
Saturday April 23- 6:45pm at Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea