4 user 9 critic

Motherland (2009)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 6 March 2009 (USA)
2:22 | Trailer

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Six American mothers, each grieving the death of a child, journey to South Africa to volunteer with impoverished children. The strength of the people they meet and the reality of the ... See full summary »


Jennifer Steinman Sternin (as Jennifer Steinman)
2 wins. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Debbi Berto Debbi Berto
Barbara Crandall Barbara Crandall
Mary Helena Mary Helena
Kathy Jimenez Kathy Jimenez
Anne Magill Anne Magill
Lauren Warner Lauren Warner


Six American mothers, each grieving the death of a child, journey to South Africa to volunteer with impoverished children. The strength of the people they meet and the reality of the poverty they witness deeply affects them. They ultimately discover hope and healing as a result of serving others, and through the unexpected friendships they form with each other. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Six Women. Two Continents. A Journey of Hope and Healing.




Not Rated


Official Sites:

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Release Date:

6 March 2009 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Oudtshoorn, South Africa See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Smush Media See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

4 August 2009 | by jdesandoSee all my reviews

In Motherland, six middle-aged women facing the nightmare of losing a child is about as dramatic a documentary as could be without tipping into sentimentality and phony re-enactment. Off to Africa they go to help needy children and help themselves soothe their lingering doubts, regrets, and absurdity of losing a child to gang murder or suicide, to cite the two poles director Jennifer Steinman carefully cuts between the women with the appreciative children in the new country and the six individual stories of grief.

As in any human drama, fact or fiction, not everyone gets with the program. Mary Helena, an older African American who has suffered a stroke, takes the longest to expunge the grief and grow in the experience of healing yourself while you are healing others. Steinman edits fluidly, with the individual stories intercut with the larger context of the journey and the group rehabilitation. She spends little time with the African children who are either orphaned or suffering from AIDS. Such a tactic throws the spotlight squarely on the grieving mothers, whose healing never seems certain, a point in the filmmaker's favor. All agree the hurt can be assuaged but never effaced.

The lack of excessive emotion is also strength of the film; with no climactic moment or catharsis, the women slowly ameliorate without a false documentary denouement of hope. As always for me is the suspicion that moving moments are re-enactments. Also I am conscious of the camera's intimate journey with the women and mindful that they are different from what they might ordinarily be because of that camera's presence.

If I had my way, there'd be no intrusive camera, and wouldn't that lead to the death of the documentary as a genre?

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