What does it mean to leave a home? What does it mean to make a home? To look for one? In Bantú Mama directed by Ivan Herrera, diaspora is explored through the intimate, poignant lens of found family.
After being arrested in the Dominican Republic, Emma (Clarisse Albrecht), an Afropean woman, narrowly escapes by jumping into a body of water. She encounters a pair of siblings, T.I.N.A (Scarlet Reyes) and $hulo (Arturo Perez), who decide to help her. They take her to their home in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, where she meets Cuki (Euris Javiel), their youngest sibling. Emma learns that they live alone and that their father is imprisoned. She quickly becomes a maternal figure for the children. We see her teach T.I.N.A how to wrap her hair, give love to Cuki, and even warm $hulo’s reserved heart. But not everything stays in this bubble. Tensions and darkness encroach and by the end of the film, T.I.N.A makes the ultimate choice for her little brother, Cuki.
Bantú Mama soaks its quiet moments in deep yearning, emotion, and unspoken melancholy. In this stillness, viewers can feel the uncertainty and turmoil of the world that each character lives in. Atmospheric and moody, this is a film that lets its audience truly breathe in and feel its surroundings. It is a visual feast, with its cinematography emphasizing the emotional core of the film.
Above all, Bantú Mama shines in its subtle and nuanced performances. The relationship that begins to grow between Emma and the siblings is dynamic and anchors the film in the connection that they have with one another. It’s heartbeat is felt in each scene, vibrating with depth and layers. The soul of Herrera’s and Albrecht’s script is distinct, poetic, and magnetic to watch play out on screen.
Riveting and insightful, Bantú Mama is a tender portrait that explores not only the bonds between siblings, but the meaning of motherhood, identity, and family.