'Bantú Mama' Aims to Unlearn America As the Ultimate Destination of Happiness & Success

The film Bantú Mama, directed by Ivan Herrera, is a soul-stirring and tender ode to the Black diaspora set in Santo Domingo.

A cursory Google search of the colonial city of Santo Domingo will lead you to the homesite of the United Nations, Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and World Heritage Convention (WHC) alliance. An elaborate description of what is considered to be not only the capital of the Dominican Republic, but of the West Indies historically, romanticizes the province as a touristic destination with its walls and architectural monumental structures "almost unaltered" from its previous colonial saga.

What goes flagrantly ignored is even a fleeting mention of slavery. Of the fact that present-day Santo Domingo is not only "the site of the first cathedral, hospital, customs house and university in the Americas," but the portal to the so-called New World. And as the recipient of the first ships of enslaved Africans by virtue of the Middle Passage, this also makes the Dominican Republic—indigenously referred to as Kiskeya or Quiskeya—the cradle of blackness in the Americas.

It is with this collective memory at the forefront that joins director Ivan Herrera and multidisciplinary writer Clarisse Albrecht in arms to tell a different kind of narrative concerning the metaphorical umbilical cord between the Caribbean and the continent of Africa. The pair's latest brainchild and labor of love culminates in a 75-minute piece of soul-stirring cinematography and tender ode to the Black diaspora, titled Bantú Mama.

"This story allows me to draw the universal portrait of hood folklore through a drama, without reinforcing the idea of chaos and misery but on the contrary, with poetry and cinematic elegance," says Herrera. "As Director Barry Jenkins said about his feature film Moonlight: ''instead of taking the hood to the arthouse, we're gonna bring the arthouse to the hood.'"

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