Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Misty Copeland Series 'I Will What I Want' Directed by Sheldon Candis ('Luv') Watch: Misty Copeland Series 'I Will What I Want' Directed by Sheldon Candis ('Luv') OWN Will Explore One of America's Most Exclusive & Historically Significant African American Beach Communities in 'Sag Harbor' OWN Will Explore One of America's Most Exclusive & Historically Significant African American Beach Communities in 'Sag Harbor' Teaser for 'Jurassic World' (4th Movie in Mega Franchise) Surfaces Teaser for 'Jurassic World' (4th Movie in Mega Franchise) Surfaces Watch Trailer For Controversial Artist Kara Walker’s Film ‘An Audience’ Watch Trailer For Controversial Artist Kara Walker’s Film ‘An Audience’ Watch Trailer for 'Storms of Carnage: The Black Panther Unleashed Part 2' (A Fan-Made Film) Watch Trailer for 'Storms of Carnage: The Black Panther Unleashed Part 2' (A Fan-Made Film) Rumorville - This Actor Just May Be in Contention to Play Apocalypse in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Rumorville - This Actor Just May Be in Contention to Play Apocalypse in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Watch Uncomfortable Interview Bill Cosby Gave to AP on Rape Allegations Watch Uncomfortable Interview Bill Cosby Gave to AP on Rape Allegations  Toni Morrison Breaks Down Race as a Social Construct to Stephen Colbert Toni Morrison Breaks Down Race as a Social Construct to Stephen Colbert Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne Will Celebrate August Wilson in PBS Special Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne Will Celebrate August Wilson in PBS Special Review: 'Seasons of Love' Might Be Yet Another Train Wreck of a Ratings Bonanza for Lifetime Review: 'Seasons of Love' Might Be Yet Another Train Wreck of a Ratings Bonanza for Lifetime Wow! BBC Announces That Idris Elba Will Return for a 2-Part 'Luther' Event Series in 2015 Wow! BBC Announces That Idris Elba Will Return for a 2-Part 'Luther' Event Series in 2015 Lupita Nyong'o Will Star in Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe' Film Adaptation (On Ugandan Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi) Lupita Nyong'o Will Star in Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe' Film Adaptation (On Ugandan Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi) Whoa! Steve McQueen & Harry Belafonte Are Teaming Up on a Paul Robeson Film. Will Be His Next Feature Whoa! Steve McQueen & Harry Belafonte Are Teaming Up on a Paul Robeson Film. Will Be His Next Feature White People Don't Get It Because They Never Had to White People Don't Get It Because They Never Had to Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Review: 'The Bastard Sings The Sweetest Song' A Subtle But Strikingly Moving Doc

Shadow and Act By Vanessa Martinez | Shadow and Act January 23, 2013 at 9:20PM

Currently screening at the Royal Cinema in Toronto since last Friday is Christy Garland’s documentary The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, which revolves around a family from Georgetown, Guyana in South America. The family’s matriarch, 75-year old Mary, is an alcoholic in denial. She’s also a talented poet who once set out to write a book of poems.
2
Muscle and his mother Mary in a still from "The Bastard Sings The Sweetest Song"
Muscle and his mother Mary in a still from "The Bastard Sings The Sweetest Song"

Currently screening at the Royal Cinema in Toronto since last Friday is Christy Garland’s documentary The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, which revolves around a family from Georgetown, Guyana in South America. The family’s matriarch, 75-year old Mary, is an alcoholic in denial. She’s also a talented poet who once set out to write a book of poems.

The documentary takes its time to reveal what has caused Mary to become dependent on alcohol. One can assume is perhaps out of boredom, or because of her forgone dream of becoming a published author. After all, Mary has a loving family, which includes three other daughters and several grandchildren. Why couldn’t she find peace and joy in her family? Why is she so restless? Why does she fear being alone at night?

Bastard also centers around Mary’s son Muscle, who is most likely in his late 30’s or early 40’s. We watch Muscle raise cocks for fighting and birds for singing competitions. The documentary’s “bastard” title refers to Muscle’s winner songbird.  Muscle, who aims to reach a stable, secure economic middle class in this tight-nit Caribbean community, keeps a very close eye on his mother.  He fears for her safety, especially since she has fallen and hurt herself before on the streets, as she goes on daily walks and begs for money to buy alcohol.

Muscle makes concessions with his mother to keep her inside their compound and safe. He rations her alcohol in order to prevent her from venturing outside. He begins to keep her locked in her room for her own good. But he’s hardly cruel with his mother. There are several tender sequences of Muscle complementing Mary to his friends about her writing talents; and are other several scenes of family members enjoying a more upbeat, affectionate Mary.

Once Mary begins recounting her traumatic experiences, dispersed in different confessional scenes with the camera, the documentary becomes genuinely affecting. You begin seeing Mary through different eyes. You ponder upon the resilience of this elder’s spirit. These sequences are compelling and subtly powerful. She’s been through abuse at the hands of her late husband, who also abused her children.

Without giving much away, there is much more pain to her story. However, the documentary’s nuanced and humane direction prevents the film going into over the top sentimentality or aiming to shock just for the sake of.  There is also a much-needed sense of hope and redemption for this family through Muscle’s testimony. He’s determined to succeed and provide for his family, but most importantly, to break the cycle of abuse.

Christy Garlands’ direction augurs a genuine and compassionate must-see portrait of alcoholism, loving familial ties, trauma, breaking the abuse cycle, and ultimately of endurance and hope.

This article is related to: Documentary, Reviews


Shadow & ActNewsletter