September 29, 2023


Arts Eternal

‘In Our Mothers’ Gardens’ review: Black women and their stories

Curator, critic and now filmmaker Shantrelle P. Lewis does not shy away from the personal in her function. Her debut function movie, “InOur Mothers’ Gardens,” is no exception in its collective storytelling composition, bringing jointly Black girls of many backgrounds and locales, like the filmmaker herself. Opening with a quote from esteemed writer and feminist Alice Walker (whose 1983 ebook of the exact name serves as titular and methodological inspiration), Lewis meticulously traces the matrilineal ancestries of the gals highlighted, from activist and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke or cultural critic Brittney Cooper to Rev. Theresa S. Thames of Princeton College.

The successes of Lewis’ film lie in the filmmaker’s means to cultivate a space of consolation and communal acknowledgment for the females found and listened to below. Even though at periods repetitive in nature, the intention powering a film these kinds of as “In Our Mothers’ Gardens” feels more akin to replicating the togetherness of serious-everyday living encounters fairly than editing, scripting and structuring down these discussions into much more shiny, mutable pieces. A similar resonance sooner or later exists on the film’s formal plane, with inlaid graphic models and visible framing units getting a relatively tough time landing their conceptual footing till about midway by means of the film when they really feel extra organically in phase with the life and tales of the women from which we listen to .

Lewis’ undertaking is strongest when it divests its more static job interview construction and rather parallels its narrative gestures with the actual-everyday living movements and words and phrases of its topics. Most enchanting below is certainly professor and priest of Obatala in the Lukumi/Yoruba tradition Kokahvah Zauditu-Selassie, a humorous and insightful figure whose limbs melodically jangle under the bodyweight of her self-made jewellery as she speaks. We follow Zauditu-Selassie as she explains the religious and political context of her clothing, her property and her rituals. Inside this, the filmmaking gets to be additional at simplicity and fantastically harmonious in tone. She radiates existence and has the kind of seemingly considerable charisma that documentary filmmakers extended to locate.

Whilst “In Our Mothers’ Gardens” stumbles to locate its footing at situations, Lewis’ function here usually feels as if it figures outdoors of the buildings of filmmaking exercise. It aspires fewer to the twin cinematic impulses of usage and skillful interpretation and extra towards both equally a design and doc of communion honoring the power implicit with these shared histories of Black girls. It is a film to be watched not for its extra literal filmmaking achievements, but fairly for its means to make you feel seen, with vulnerability and with love.

‘In Our Mothers’ Gardens’

Not rated

Working time: 1 hour 24 minutes

Playing: Accessible on Netflix