By José Sarmiento Hinojosa
I’m struggling to grasp the words to properly describe how I felt after watching Khalik Allah’s new film, Black Mother. I want to say this: to experience the latest Allah film is like witnessing the performance of a ritual, a rite of passage for the spectator, a life-changing event, sort of a baptism (a term which I’ve read elsewhere about the film, I can’t recall where) where you’re so deeply submerged in the trance of phantasmagoria that you seem to wake up of a lysergic trip. Allah’s, progressing immensely as a filmmaker after the fantastic Field Niggas, makes use of an array of cameras, film stocks, film formats, steady cams, everything he apparently needed to convey the rite. All of it feels perfectly organic, brutally honest, like a testimony of faith.
Black Mother deals with the identity of black women in Jamaica: religious women, old women, school girls, prostitutes. They are all part of the spiritual environment of the country, each of them part of the genesis of men. Birth and nature, faces like territories, history marked in each wrinkle, in each crevasse of the face. It’s a celebration of intense spirituality, in each exchange, in the words that are delayed like a phrase of dub music. Black Mother is deeply rooted in the roots of the black culture in Jamaica, and it extends it reach from the embrace of the mother to all its inhabitants, in their own personal rituals, their search for sexual experiences, in their prayers, the Rastafarian culture and religion, in their flesh, mature and ripe like their market fruit.
This is a film of testimony, of contemplation. It doesn’t judge, it experiences, it travels, it gazes at its universe. It’s a poetic experience like only cinema could provide. Cauleen Smith, Kevin Jerome Everson, Mike Henderson, among others, have all given clear visibility of black culture, but arguably nobody comes close to the sort of ritual/rite that New Yorker Khalik Allah’s cinema is. Allah has gone beyond the realm of cinema and elevated his art to the sublime.
Black Mother is one of the best films of 2018.
Director: Khalik Allah
Producers: Khalik Allah, Leah Giblin
Editor: Khalik Allah
Cinematography: Khalik Allah
Sound: Khalik Allah, 4th Disciple, Josh Furey