By Dankwa Brooks | Shadow and Act September 9, 2013 at 12:41PM
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.