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Motherland
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Directed By
Jennifer Steinman
Run Time
1 hour 20 minutes
Cast
Debbi Berto, Barbara Crandall, Mary Helena, Kathy Jimenez
Theatre Release
March 06, 2009 by Gigantic Digital

Does this sound like a good idea for a movie? I can't decide. Take six women who have suffered the loss of a child. Send them together to South Africa, to work with impoverished children. In the security of each other's company, with a genuine need set before them, their grief is mitigated and healing is begun.

As therapy, it's a great idea. Director Jennifer Steinman came up with it when a friend of hers lost a son in a car accident. "It was the most excruciating and complex form of grief I had ever witnessed," she says. Later she heard that more people are living with HIV in South Africa than anywhere else on the planet. The disease is pandemic, and most families have suffered loss. It is "a nation of mourners."

So Steinman recruited her friend and five other grieving women to undertake this project. Each had lost a son or daughter (for one participant, it was her brother). The 17-day journey to South Africa provided them with a rare opportunity to drop their guard and truly be themselves. In each local environment, everyone else had gone on with their lives; the friends of a young suicide were heading off to college. Life beckoned in myriad new ways. But for the grieving survivors time stood still, and it was a relief to be with others who would understand, who would not demand smiles and small talk.

Also, the presence of small children playing, laughing, shouting, and snuggling was itself a hope-restorer. Unexpectedly, smiles began to return. At the end of the trip, the women had been refreshed and strengthened, equipped to go forward with their now less-empty lives.

A great idea for therapy, as I said, but as a movie, I'm not sure. Grief is so internally wracking that the public face can be stony, inexpressive; the grief-stricken ...

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