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BUSH MAMA

USA, 1975 (MIFF 1979)

Director: Haile Gerima

Haile Genma shot Bush Mama in America before returning to his native Ethiopia to make Harvest 3000 Years (Melbourne Festival 1977). In both films he explores a complex social reality and the radical film language needed to deal with such problems.

Dorothy, a Black woman, lives with her eleven year old daughter, Luan, trying to make ends meet on welfare in the Los Angeles ghetto. She is pregnant, and her husband, TC is in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Dorothy spends hours travelling to unemployment offices to wait for jobs that don't exist. An insensitive social worker tries to pressure her into having an abortion: the incident triggers a nightmarish fantasy in her mind. Gradually, the realistic picture of the world around her begins to be infiltrated with more comforting scenes from her imagination.

On the one hand, her fantasies are a way of escaping the harsh realities and resigning herself to an alienated passivity. On the other hand, her dreams contain the seeds of liberating social action, which are encouraged by Luan's militant African friend, Angie and by TC who is organising political action in jail.

Finally, when Luan is raped and she herself is beaten, Dorothy is catapulted into radicalised political awareness.

Haile Gerima

Born in Ethiopia: 1946. Works in USA. Features: Child of Resistance, Bush Mama (1975), Harvest: 3000 Years (in Ethiopia, 1976), Wilmington 10 - USA 10,000 (11978).

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