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Maryland Film Fest Review: 'Mother of George' Is The Best Film I’ve Seen Thus Far This Year

by Dankwa Brooks
May 21, 2013 11:53 AM
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Every year I pick a favorite film, among the many I see at the Maryland Film Festival, and this year it's a truly remarkable one—Mother of George.

I knew going into this film that it would have good direction and cinematography having seen director Andrew Dosunmu and cinematographer Bradford Young’s last collaboration Restless City at the 2011 MFF, but they really took it to the next level with this one.

Stunning is kind of an understatement to explain the opening of the film, as it has one of the most beautiful traditional Yoruba wedding ceremonies ever captured on film. Cinematographer Bradford Young explained in the Q&A after the film that he and the director Dosunmu, fought and poured over every frame of that sequence because it was important, as it represented the culture, the motherland; and all of their work shows. 

Recognition must also be given to Costume Designer Mobolaji Dawodu for all of the beautiful wedding attire that completed the scene.

Mother of George revolves around the newlywed couple in that opening wedding sequence: Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé) and Adenike (Danai Gurira). You get to see the pageantry of a Yoruba wedding and all of their observances, including their ceremony, naming their yet-to-be-conceived first son—George.

Under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law, Ma Ayo (Bukky Ajayi), new bride Adenike fails to conceive, and this causes her much internal angst as she feels her marriage may be in trouble because of it. 

The resulting story by screenwriter Darci Picoult is not only wonderfully infused with African culture, but takes turns of Shakespearean proportions that leaves you guessing until the very last frame.

The performances across the board are also great. Isaach De Bankolé as Ayodele lends a quiet intensity to his role as the owner of a small Nigerian restaurant in Brooklyn. You can tell that he is the eldest son and the apple of his mother’s eye. 

Bukky Ajayi is great as the domineering matriarch Ma Ayo; and Anthony Okungbowa (mostly known as “DJ Tony” on the ‘Ellen’ show) gives a really good performance as the carefree younger brother. 

But it is Danai Gurira as Adenike who owns this picture. This film revolves around her and everything she has to go through in her young marriage with a man she truly loves.   

From the ebullient opening of the wedding, to sullenness of her inability to conceive, Danai Gurira gives one of the best performances of the year. Even when she isn’t saying anything you can see the angst and turmoil Adenike is going through all over her face. 

Audiences will know Gurira from her role as the sword wielding “Michonne” on the TV series The Walking Dead, but while she is good on the show, she excels in George - a role that gives her more range and depth to work with.

This year Mother of George was the Closing Night Film of the Maryland Film Festival, and out of the twelve feature films I saw at this year’s festival, it was the best! 

Great direction, beautiful cinematography, brilliant story and impressive acting made Mother of George an excellent motion picture.

Even though Mother of George was picked up for distribution shortly after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January, it has no set theatrical release; but please be on the lookout for it, it wasn’t just the best picture I saw at the MFF this year; it is the best picture I’ve seen this year thus far. Really.

I review more good films and post more film info on the 'Nother Brother Entertainment blog and you can always talk film with me on Twitter @NotherBrother

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  • Victoria Kennedy | May 31, 2013 3:09 PMReply

    This movie was the gem of the Maryland Film Festival 2013. I was privileged to see this work of art and speak to the director and cinematographer afterwards. In my opinion, it was soul-stirring. The beautiful images are still with me. Danai's performance made the story real. I cannot wait to see it again.

  • Moni | May 21, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    First of all, I am mad that I didn't know anything about the Maryland Film Festival. I would have gone! Second, I have admired the talented beauty that is Danai Gurira since seeing her in The Visitor. I will definitely be watching out for this movie!

  • Dankwa Brooks | May 21, 2013 6:05 PM

    @Moni I assume you're black, but I have been trying to get every black person who would listen to attend the MFF! Yes most of the films are art/indie films, but I have been going for nine years and I always find some films with "black faces". I like the others too. LOL, but when many complain about lack of "good stories" with black folk I often turn to the good black indie/art fare I've seen.

  • CareyCarey | May 21, 2013 1:59 PMReply

    "it wasn't just the best picture I saw at the MFF this year; it is the best picture I've seen this year thus far. Really." ~ Dankwa Brooks

    Those are mighty big words. At first I didn't know what to make of them. So...

    "we support black folk that do what we like, say what we would say, look like we would look, feel like we would feel, stand like we stand, lie like we lie, marry who we would marry, and on and on and on"

    Believing that to be true, I did a little research. Well, actually, I tried to find other reviews. I started here at IndieWire. In early May, although Tambay posted a few articles on the film (which received zero comments) he said he had not seen the film. Melissa Silverstein only gave a short overview, which I would not classify as a "review" - there was no meat.

    But I did hit the jackpot (sort of) with Zeba Blay:

    "While the story is certainly engaging, it could have been bolstered by more interaction between husband and wife - at times Ayodele's distance and indifference can seem frustratingly expected. Still, it's the technical end of Mother of George that truly elevates the film. Bradford Young, cinematographer for Restless City as well as indie sensations Pariah and Middle of Nowhere, manages to heighten the human drama of the film with shots that experiment with the use of light and color in incredibly striking ways."

    Now, I've seen Restless City and Pariah, so I know where she's coming from, however, as with both films, although I enjoyed each, I would only recommend them to a select few of my friends.

    So now I am trying to figure out why Dankwa praised this film so heavily? At first I thought he was merely saying it was the best film at MFF. But no, he didn't stop there. Anyway, since I don't know my man's groove zone (although I have visited his blog) my excitement over this film is on a hold pattern. I need to hear a few more opinions or see a few clips.

  • CareyCarey | May 22, 2013 8:58 AM

    Now Dankwa, there you go with that "back and forth". It works when it works - huh? *wink* :-)

    But maybe we should get a room because that's what I do. I support those who support "US" in the right way. So, as some would say... Igotchu.

    But be forewarned, as you may well know, if you come with some mess (in your reviews, comments, etc., I am an equal opportunity head smacker. If you're "messy" I'll have to get that ass. *LOL*

  • Dankwa Brooks | May 22, 2013 8:20 AM

    Thanks again for your support CareyCarey :) I've added more reviews of good black films like 'Gimme the Loot' and '42' on the blog. Also keep in mind I ONLY write reviews for films I like.

  • CareyCarey | May 21, 2013 8:07 PM

    LOL... Nawl brah, it's not that I like "back and forth" per se, I love (as I've said many times) engaging in conversations which involves movies. Granted, I can go "there" but in this case, your tone was not "inciteful" nor confrontational... if you know what I mean. More importantly, there's really nothing else to discuss. You've stated your "reasoning", so all I can say is - okay. But as I said, I just need to hear more opinions on the film.

    Btw, I visited your blog over a year ago. I watched your short and read several of your articles.

  • Dankwa Brooks | May 21, 2013 3:34 PM

    @CareyCarey LOL. I knew there would be some dissenters, but not you bro. Thanks for checking out my blog!

    First, my friends and regular followers online know I'm discerning. I have seen many films that I have written NOTHING about because I'm a filmmaker not a critic. I respect the final work for at least getting done.

    Second, even though it is May and I've seen stuff like G.I. Joe & Olympus Has Fallen I don't think I will see much more as good as 'George'. An equally discerning friend of mine liked it too.

    Lastly CareyCarey I know you would like a back and forth, but if it gets too contentious I may not reply. LOL

  • Melanie | May 21, 2013 12:31 PMReply

    I just gotta see it!!

  • Dankwa Brooks | May 21, 2013 1:15 PM

    @Melanie you must! I tried not to be too hyperbolic in my review and I'll probably write more on the 'Nother Brother blog later. I'm so happy for the cast and crew, they created a work of art!

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