Filmed on black-and-white 16 mm for a total budget of $100,000 in 1995, "Mother of the River" is based on a Haitian folk tale but transferred to the American plantation South in the 1850's. Director Zeinabu irene Davis and her husband, screenwriter Marc Chéry, ably mix realism and fantasy to create an indelible portrait of the terrors African-Americans faced under slavery and the attempts by Black activists to free them. The film is beautifully balanced and, at 28 minutes, is just the right length to tell its story without feeling padded. The actors, particularly child actress Adrienne Monique Coleman in the central role of Dofimae, achieve an understated eloquence and the film moves without being preachy. It's a little gem, one of those shorts that deserves to be better known and more widely shown and Zeinabu irene Davis, who hasn't been able to make a narrative film since, deserves the chance to direct a feature.
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