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Bush Mama (1979) was written, produced, edited, and directed by Haile
Gerima. An actor know as Barbarao (Barbara O. Jones) plays Dorothy.
Dorothy's husband is in prison, and we're told he's innocent. Dorothy
has a teen-age daughter, and Dorothy is pregnant.
Dorothy is frequently visited by her welfare caseworker, who, although African-American, represents the power of the establishment. She's not all alone--she has friends who care about her. One of them tells her, "We'll all take care of you and the baby." Dorothy gives the realistic answer, "How can you take care of me? You don't have anything yourself."
The question for Dorothy is whether to have the baby or terminate the pregnancy. The caseworker wants her to terminate the pregnancy. Dorothy is ambivalent. Telling more of the plot in this review would be inappropriate.
This is a powerful indictment of the economic, social, and psychological situation in Watts in 1979. I wish I could say, "That was then. This is now." However, we all know it's not true.
We saw this movie at the excellent Dryden Theatre in the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. It will work well on a small screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Haile Gerima's movie sucks. These days he can be found at his café bookstore pretending he is African American and screaming at customers about gentrification, his misnomered identity, and Bank of America, the movie is just as pathetic as the writer. The movie which falls on low budget Sci-Fi meets the Waltons, serious in the movie's ambitious attempt to fit the writer in amongst the pioneers of Black Cinema, and comical because it was the worst movie ever to get out of a college project with the pretentiousness of Euro trash pretending in knows anything about colonial or colonial time periods for the movie's theme. Well thought out for an ABC after school special but still weak, and plagiarized from another screen gem. If you want to see a movie made by a high school senior and completely corny with respect to ambitious attempt to get a story right, the synthesis was the highpoint of putting two themes together which again in repetitive tedium still is a suck fest not being told by a trusted raconteur but a pig who puts together Euro trash with the attempt to pass it off as an authentic message.
An interesting piece of documentary history into the work of Haile Gerima. The film is very rough but has its moments. The actors were believable but the story line seemed forced and a tad didactic. This should be judged as a piece of history and not a artistic effort.
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