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BABYMOTHER

UK, 1998 (MIFF 1999, International Panorama)

Director: Julian Henriques

Anita is a 'Babymother', a young woman raising two chil­dren in a housing estate in north-west London with the assistance of her own mother, Edith. Byron, the father of her youngest child, is a local Reggae celebrity who casually invites Anita to perform in his show but never follows up on the offer. Frustrated, Anita goes ahead and forms her own act—the hilariously dubbed Neeta, Sweeta & Nastie—with friends Sharon and Yvette. The girls first performance, at a party, goes very well until Bryon turns up with Anita's rival, Dionne.

With the sudden death of her mother, startling fam­ily secrets revealed and the possibility of studio record­ing time, Anita's life takes a dramatic turn that she could never have predicted. Participating in a band competition against bitter rivals, the girls' story rises to a crashing climax.

Favourably compared to Strictly Ballroom, Babymother is billed as a 'Reggae musical'. Built around a simple plot of struggle against financial and societal adversity, the story soars when stupendous choreogra­phy and original music take centre stage. Director Julian Henriques extracts flexible, thoughtful and powerful per­formances from his cast. Anjela Lauren Smith is lumi­nous as Anita, forming a relaxed and witty ensemble with Caroline Chikezie (as Sharon) and Jocelyn Esien (as Yvette). A fresh and exuberant film that sparkles with an exceptional soundtrack and gutsy direction.

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