By Don Simpson | September 14, 2013
Director: Andrew Dosunmu
Writer: Darci Picoult
Starring: Isaach De Bankolé, Danai Gurira, Yaya DaCosta, Anthony Okungbowa, Bukky Ajayi, Angélique Kidjo
During a traditional African wedding ceremony, Adenike (Danai Gurira) is re-named for her yet-to-be-conceived first child, George. Despite living in modern day Brooklyn, Adenike finds herself entrenched within a patriarchal society, a microcosm of traditional African customs. For a woman, marriage equates solely to fertility and motherhood; so it is not only assumed that Adenike will be immediately impregnated by her husband, Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé), but that their first child will further the male lineage of the Balogun family. In this culture, bearing a son is a wife’s sole purpose; so when Adenike is unable to fulfill her primary obligation to the Balogun family, she is deemed inadequate by her society. If Adenike does not get pregnant soon, Ayodele will be forced to take another wife. No matter who is to blame for their infertility, Adenike must find some way to produce a baby.
Director Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George observes the smothering effects of a world in which women are seen as baby incubators who are solely intended to produce a male heir to their husband’s family line. With marriage, Adenike has been forced into a warped psychological state of worthlessness. She has become a possession of the Balogun family and has no other options than to abide by their wishes. Written by Darci Picoult, the story is intimately told from a unique female perspective, while Bradford Young’s stunning cinematography brilliantly captures the claustrophobic world — and wardrobe — in which Adenike finds herself hopelessly trapped.
There is a certain unrealness to Adenike’s world, which is captured with methodical camera movements and purposeful framing. Painterly images are boldly presented with a hyper-saturated color palate, functioning in stark opposition to the brutal undertones of the narrative; just as the luxurious luminosity of the characters’ skin distracts from the pervasive darkness that is burrowed underneath. The colorful allure of the opening wedding sequence reveals the precise reasons that women finds themselves attracted like moths to the flame of this demeaning lifestyle. The beauty and elegance of the ritual reconnects this culture to their history in utterly transfixing ways, and is not until we travel beyond the ceremony that the inherent ugliness is revealed.
Several recent films have discussed the feminine experience of modern women living in traditional societies that are still bound to the roots of their ancestors, but none of them present their stories with the visual intoxication of Mother of George. More importantly, the beauty of the images becomes an integral part of Dosunmu’s film, constantly commenting upon the onscreen events.