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Reviewed by Wilson Morales
There are lots of stories that are never told in the way it should. When it comes for some stories to be made into films, the initial script or concept has been tweaked to accommodate a friendly audience. In Mama Africa, Queen Latifah introduces three short stories from female African directors about women and the plight they go through to survive the hardships they face. The problems arisen from these stories are that they feel incomplete and universal when its initial intent is to show an African reality never shown before.
In the first story, “UNO’S WORLD”, directed by Bridget Pickering, Uno (Sophie David) is a young woman facing unwelcome responsibilities after falling in love with a man who doesn’t commitment. Uno is a beautiful and vibrant 25-year-old seeking adventure. After giving birth to a child from an affair she believes will grow into something, Uno quickly becomes despondent when her dream doesn’t become a reality. Desperate to get an answer as to why her life is upside down, she leaves behind her normal life and responsibilities to enter a world of danger. What she looks for is a path she didn’t think of crossing before.
Ngozi Onwhura directs the second story “Hang Time”. It tells the story of Kwame (Brian Biragi), a poor young talented basketball player seeking the ultimate fame and glory. Living in Ingbu, Nigeria and looking for a way out, Kwame believes that wearing the right sneakers and attracting an American scout coming to town will get him his “freedom”. Raised by his grandmother when his mother died and his drunken father left, Kwame has always done right. Emotionally supported by his sister, Chiddy, Kwame has not swayed towards to the dark side of the track, meaning Oli, an old gangster friend of Kwame. When the need to quickly rise to the spotlight arises, Kwame makes a decision that will ultimately be regretful.
Zulfah Otto-Sallies directs the final story “Raya”. Raya (Rehane Abrahams) is a young woman trying to start her life anew with her daughter while escaping a criminal past.
Set in Cape Town, Raya comes home after spending five years in jail. Unlike most of her peers, Raya rebelled against her Muslim upbringing and finds that not all is forgiven back home. Her daughter Madeegah has been raised by Raya’s mother Salama much to Raya’s chagrin. When work is hard to get and her mother stressing her, Raya finds an ally with an old friend, Joe. When Joe demands more of Raya, she finds that she trying to reclaim her old lifestyle might not have been a good thing.
All three stories are presented with a good setup. The problem is that we looking for a culture like story that have never been shown before. Although the stories derive from Africa, the setting doesn’t serve as a backdrop. All three stories could be from anywhere, USA. Pickering’s story feels incomplete. Its urban tale is something we’ve seen before and can predict a mile away. Onwhura’s story is the most developed of the three but lacks morality. Its central character isn’t redeemable to say the least. No lesson has been learned from his consequences and once again, the setting lacks development. Otto-Sallies’s story suffers from too much preachy dialogue. For Mama Africa to be effective a lot has to be said about its country and the hardship of living there. Latifah does a great in setting one up for a fall.
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