Children of the Mountain – A review
25 Feb 2017
When Essuman, played by Rukiyat Masud , gives birth to a baby boy with multiple disabilities, everyone in the community tells her that her that the child is not human, is a demonic spirit, her womb is poisoned and she is cursed for her sins. Even the father denies the child is his and refuses to acknowledge that the child is human. The baby’s paternal grandmother demands that Essuman get rid of the child so it will not suffer and bring shame to their family. We watch Essuman, a hard working young woman go from being joyful towards the end of her pregnancy to being a broken mother who even attempts to abandon her newborn baby.
Her best friend, Asantewaa, played by Akofa Edjeani Asiedu, is her ride-or-die throughout the film! I was so grateful to writer/director Priscilla Anany for portraying this friendship in Children of the Mountain. This is the most powerful friendship I have seen on screen between two women in forever. It was heartwarming to see the sacrifices that Asantewaa made for Essuman when it would have been far easier to walk away from Essuman and her special needs baby. Their sisterhood alone makes the film worth watching.
Alas, their friendship was not the only thing that made me fall in love with this film. The commentary about the burden women are forced to bear for things that are out of our control is the underlying theme in this film. Though Nuku, Essuman’s baby boy, was born with disabilities, we get the sense that Essuman’s life would have still been difficult even if the child was born perfectly normal. However, having a child with a disability not only made her life exponentially more difficult, it also made her undesirable to everyone in the community.
The film highlights a very real problem… the lack of access to good healthcare for children like Nuku. Because Essuman did not have the money for Nuku’s a critical surgery, Essuman searched for cure on her own. Spending way more money than she could afford, Essuman sought out cures from so-called medicine men, religious figures and traditional healers. All we see through this process was straws being added to the back of the proverbial camel.
Anany’s inclusion of the Christian preacher for me was very essential. She brought a global problem to the forefront. Essuman traveled a long distance to seek the assistance of a pastor who promised her that he was holy enough to cure her son. And in the end, he only victimized Essuman without repercussion. This is symbolic of the history that the African continent as a whole has experienced with many outside religions that have promised great and mighty things, but have victimized the people without facing any repercussions. Although Essuman showed no visible signs of defeat after the incident with the preacher, we do feel her sense of weary desperation increasing.
Anany has a love affair with Ghana in Children of the Mountain. The brilliant colors of the Ankara fabrics we see in virtually every scene give us a strange sense of optimism. We get to see so much of the landscape, from the crowded city of Accra, to the lush foliage of the countryside. The soothing river which serves as a form of life, healing and death simultaneously plays a vital role in this film. These river scenes are shot so artistically that I checked to see if my clothes were actually wet while watching.
The river also represents love as this is where she first sees the man that brings a pivotal change to our hearts. Gyamfi, played by Agbeko Mortty, brings a very different flavor and temperament to the story. I absolutely loved this character and the compassion he exhibits. There is a scene towards the end that caught me off guard in the worst way. It made me break into tears and lose a significant amount of my street cred. I did not expect this film to make me have that reaction, but it did. This is just another charming dimension of a film that was introduced as somewhat cold and heartless like the so many of its characters.
One of the things that I believe viewers will take away from this film is education. This film is old verses new and tradition verses science. It would be easy to deem the people of Ghana/Africa as backward and superstitious, but it was the medical community of Ghana that offered her the most comprehensive treatment options. Another message we take away is the peril women and their children experience at the hands of poverty. And though I sucked my teeth multiple times at the sight of Edjah, the child’s worthless father, I was all smiles when Essuman met the man that she dared not even dream of. He was what she needed when she least expected it. Children of the Mountain is certainly not the stereotypical film that shows all black men in a bad light. Gyamfi was in fact the man of my dreams. LOL.
Children of the Mountain is a film about a strong woman who walked to the end of the earth to help her child. But she is a real woman. As like all other real things, Essuman is not unbreakable. This is a film that begs our compassion as we experience this journey with a woman that is too much of a representative of women and mothers worldwide as we fight existing oppressive norms in virtually every society.
The Stars of TV ONE’s new film, Media, hit the red carpet for the premier at the 2017 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.
17 Feb 2017 - Film & T.V.