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Haile Gerima's powerful, shockingly realistic portrait of inner-city poverty traces an impoverished single mother's journey from apathy to activism.
Inspired after having seen a Black woman in Chicago evicted in the middle of winter, director Haile Gerima blends fiction, documentary, surrealism and political outrage in his unflinching portrait of a pregnant welfare recipient in Watts. At times shockingly realistic — the film opens with actual footage of the LAPD harassing Gerima and his crew during shooting — Bush Mama explores the different forces that act on Dorothy (the magnetic Barbara O. Jones) in her oppressive daily dealings with social workers and the local welfare office. Determined to protect her daughter and unborn child following the incarceration of her partner T.C. (Johnny Weathers), Dorothy undergoes an ideological transformation from apathy and passivity to empowered action. An unrelenting and powerfully moving look at the realities of inner-city poverty and the systemic disenfranchisement of African Americans, as well as an unforgiving critique of the US surveillance state and the tyranny of unchecked police power, Bush Mama is ultimately uplifting as it chronicles Dorothy's awakening political consciousness and her realization of her own self-worth.