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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mama Africa
Mama Africa
Wellspring // Unrated // December 17, 2002
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matt Langdon | posted March 17, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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Mama Africa is a DVD with six short films made in various African countries by women directors over the past couple of years.

The original three films, which were chosen for theatrical release, are introduced by Queen Latifah and to some degree have mainstream appeal.

Uno's World (Namibia): This short film by Bridget Pickering is about a young woman who doesn't want to grow up but is forced to when she gets pregnant and must raising the child by herself. The deadbeat dad refuses to respond to her calls and whenever she confronts him he brushes her off. She waits for him but he is more interested in his big business drug deals. The film is somewhat predictable but well acted.

Hangtime (Nigeria): This short by Ngozi Onwurah is about a young talented basketball player who desperately needs a new pair of shoes so he can compete in a big competition that is coming to his town. He lives with his grandmother who doesn't have enough money to buy him new shoes. And his father, who lives far away, doesn't respond to his repeated requests for money. The boy is stuck having to make a 'pact with the devil' type of decision with a local businessman. Irony hangs in the balance.

Raya (Morocco) This short film by Zulfah Otto-Sallies is about a woman who gets out of prison after five years and attempts to return to a normal life. She finds that life is tougher than she expected and besides she has a six year old daughter to take care of. Raya refuses to stay with her officious mother and heads off to live with a sociable drug dealer. She contends with the temptation to trade drugs again.

Each of the films has a moral lesson at the center of it and (if it's not obvious) each deals with the dangerous siren song of drugs and crime.

There are three additional films that are presented as an extra on the DVD.

Bintu (Burkina Faso): This film by Fanta Nacro is about a woman who encounters resistance from her husband - and from some of her neighbors - when she tries to go into business for herself. Her husband feels threatened by his position as head of the household and he tries to stop her. The film has a winning combination of humor, realism and magic realism.

Riches (Zimbabwe): This film by Ingrid Sinclair is about a progressive woman from South Africa who moves with her son to a provincial village in Zimbabwe. None of the other teachers like or trust her and even though the school headmaster encourages her teaching methods he clearly wants something else from her. The film is very well directed (although just as it gets good and bleak it resolves itself).

One Evening in July (Tunisia): This film by Raja Amari is the subtlest of the bunch but equally powerful. It is about an older woman beautician who makes up women on their wedding nights. All of the women she works with are part of arranged marriages and as this film begins she hopes that the young woman she is currently preparing will finally be the one who breaks off the wedding.

Every film in the series is well directed and a few of them - such as the last two - seem as though they could be longer films.

The films deal with the foibles and challenges of humanity and since they present real human problems that are not just specific to Africa they can be appreciated by everyone (not just women).

Video:
The film is presented in 1.85 to 1 and looks excellent. Each of the films were shot with different film stocks. Some are grainy while others are slick but each have transferred well. The first three films Uno's World, Hangtime, and Raya look the best of the bunch and have been shot in 35mm. That's not to say the others are not but they seem a little less well polished (which, to be honest, doesn't bother me a bit).

Audio:
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 although each of the films has varying levels of sound. The first three films Uno's World, Hangtime, and Raya have the strongest soundtracks. Five of the films are presented in English.

Extras:
The main extra is the three short films (described above). Other than that the only other extras are brief bios on each of the directors, as well as weblinks.

Overall:
Mama Africa is a very good series of short films from a part of the world that gets few released in the United States. Each of the films presents a moral dilemma and the way that particular women deal with them. The DVD looks and sounds great. Some of the films present stories that are by-the-numbers and not particularly original but each of them are well acted and directed. Recommended

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