True/False Conversations - Pregnancy and Jamacian Culture in 'Black Mother'
This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year's True/False Film Fest.
Director Khalik Allah travels through Jamaica following one woman's pregnancy through the birth of her child. The film employs artistic cinematography to show Jamaican culture. Although Allah’s maternal family still lives in Jamaica, he chose to explore parts of the island he was unfamiliar with in an adventurous and complex film.
Rodriguez: What exactly can we expect from Black Mother? Tell us a little bit about what Black Mother is about and how long this journey has been for you.
Allah: Aw man, its about so much. I mean the film has so many different layers of meaning embedded into it. I think a lot of people will take a lot of different things away from it and also project a lot into it and invest a lot into it to make up their own meanings too.
Rodriguez: The story kind of follows this mother through her--is it her third trimester?--and then all the way to the birth of the child?
Allah: When I was editing the audio, I said let me just break it into three parts. That naturally manifested into the idea of three trimesters and then that helped structure the film. And to me, there is that fourth element too which is the birth, which is like the four quadrants of the heart, you know the four chambers. And that’s where the film came from, it’s really from the heart, the whole film. Also, I’m coming with the good news. There’s a lot of good news in this film. Also, in this era now… this kid shot up a school, you got all this crazy news everyday. This film is really positive. It’s just something I felt had to happen.
Rodriguez: So, do you think you would consider this autobiographical? Or is it not that kind of story that you’re telling?
Allah: My family is in it, but it’s not about my family to a really full extent. They’re in it to offer a level of sincerity to my relationship to even making the film because otherwise it may have looked like an outsider came and made the film. I’m actually a dual-citizen with Jamaica through descent. I did that after Trump was elected. I was like, yo let me just make sure I got a different citizenship in a different country in case I need to bolt.
Rodriguez: So how much do you think you learned about Jamaica and the culture through making this film and being there?
Allah: Oh yeah. I mean when you’re embedded in a place you’re always going to learn so much more first hand. That’s what the film did to me. It taught me making this film because I really went into uncharted territory of Jamaica for me. Different parishes and parts of the island that I never used to travel to because it’s customary for people to live in a certain part of the country to never even leave that part of the country and go to the other side. I know people in Jamaica that were born in a town and have never really left that area or that parish ever and I just feel like when people see it, it’s like I’ve never seen anything like this before. That’s what I’m going for. My films are striving to be the essence of things.