Black Mother

(Khalik Allah, Jamaica/USA, 2018)


This vivid cinematographic scrapbook offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of contemporary Jamaica: warring sects of politics and religion; indigenous and cosmopolitan influences; the role of food and family; the beauty of nature and the decadence of culture.

At the centre of this collage is the figure, both real and mythical, of the Black Mother.

Khalik Allah practices a first-person cinema. His camera-eye may switch from black-and-white to colour, and from one film gauge to another – but his vision of the world in which he is immersed remains intimate and constant.

He is willing to record the traces of all ideological and spiritual persuasions that inform the Jamaican context, but his sympathy for the oppressed underclasses is perfectly clear.

Placing almost all the images and sounds out of synchronisation, Allah further uses soundtrack loops and audio treatments to stylise his often startlingly direct mosaic of everyday life. Images recur and enter into ever-shifting configurations, almost as in a Terrence Malick movie.

Eschewing the usual documentary emphasis on performed and recorded reggae music from Jamaica, Allah uses hymns and popular standards as sung – with enviable gusto – by his remarkable span of participants.

© Adrian Martin 8 October 2018

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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