For his third feature film, filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah turned his attention to a place very close to his heart: Jamaica, the birthplace of his mother. While Allah’s lauded “Field Niggas” served as a visual exploration of the various people who move in around the Harlem street corner of 125th Street and Lexington Ave. (an area he also explored in his 2017 book, “Souls Against the Concrete”), “Black Mother” takes his talents to a very different location, finding many connections between the two in the process.
In an official statement, the filmmaker billed the film as “an audio-visual love letter to Jamaica.” Allah added, “I shot my last film in the streets. I shot this one on a river. Everything in the film is connected through water; from the fruit to the land to the people, with a specific emphasis on the woman who carries life for nine months. There’s no container for this film, it overflows with intimate portraiture and prayers that are intended to hit you in the chest more than the head.”
Per its official synopsis, the film is: “Part film, part baptism, in ‘Black Mother’ director Khalik Allah brings us on a spiritual journey through Jamaica. Soaking up its bustling metropolises and tranquil countryside, Allah introduces us to a succession of vividly rendered souls who call this island home. Their candid testimonies create a polyphonic symphony, set against a visual prayer of indelible portraiture. Thoroughly immersed between the sacred and profane, ‘Black Mother’ channels rebellion and reverence into a deeply personal ode informed by Jamaica’s turbulent history but existing in the urgent present.”
When the film screened at last year’s New Directors/New Films, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote that it “is a challenging and profound deep-dive into Jamaican identity that rewards repeat viewings and confirms the aesthetic of a visionary filmmaker. … Allah’s approach has the immersive qualities of installation art, even as he stuffs a preponderance of evocative visuals into some semblance of narrative structure. … Allah careens through an 87-minute collage of Jamaican faces from multiple generations, as voiceovers share tidbits of history, racial struggles, and personal philosophies, fusing them together with spiritual fervor. There’s almost no music on the soundtrack, but the meandering testimonies take on a rhythm of their own — it’s oral history as art.”
The film was shot on 16mm, Super 8, Hi-8 Tape, Mini DV, and HD Video and is, in Allah’s own words, “an exercise in style and aesthetic to showcase my range as a photographer.”
“Black Mother” will open at NYC’s Metrograph on Friday, March 8. Check out IndieWire’s exclusive trailer and poster for the film below.