Film Review: CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN (director Priscilla Anany/World Premiere, Tribeca Film Festival)

Post image for Film Review: CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN (director Priscilla Anany/World Premiere, Tribeca Film Festival)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 20, 2016

in Film


Actress Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) walking through a grassland in a scene shot in the Volta Region of Ghana. From the film CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN. Photo by Selasie Djameh.Reading the synopsis of Children of the Mountain in the Tribeca Film Festival catalogue I fully expected the film to be a sentimental, agenda-driven disaster; the only reason I ended up watching it was because I was unable to watch the movie I had wanted to see. As it turned out, this was a most fortunate turn of events; not only because it was immediately clear that this USA-Ghana production was remarkable, but because few things improve the experience of watching an excellent film like being sure going in that it’s going to be garbage.

At the beginning of Priscilla Anany’s lovely and captivating modern-day fairytale, young Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) carries herself with an air of haughtiness; she’s pregnant with the child  of her neighbor’s husband Edjah (Adjetey Anang), who’s chosen her over his wife. But when Essuman’s baby is born deformed and sickly, she finds herself rejected by Edjah, as well as by much of the community at large, suffering at the hands of swindlers and charlatans, and enduring assault and humiliation, as she searches for a cure for her son in a Ghana of primitive notions and superstitions.

Essuman (Actress Rukiyat Masud) carrying her onscreen disabled child Nuku (Jessica Dablo) and walking into the Volta Lake in CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN. Photographer: Selasie Djameh

Watching Children of the Mountain, which Ms. Anany also scripted and produced, one is immediately taken by its crispness and elegant simplicity. It’s in the dialogue, which never wanders into superfluousness; it’s in the acting, which is so natural it feels almost naïve; it’s in the cinematography of Eli Wallace Johansson, whose images breathe while boasting a to-the-point clarity. Ms. Anany’s mastery of her craft and the deft precision with which she chooses what to show and what to exclude create a feeling of effortlessness, which makes this tale of the collision of two primal forces — instinctual maternal love and the urge to perfection — all the more poignant, at times painfully so. And although one can argue about the thematic correctness of the film’s somewhat predictable ending, Children of the Mountain enriches and deserves to be seen.

Actresses Rukiyat Masud (left) and Eli Cecilson (right) walking up the dirt road in a scene where they visit a pastor's camp in CHILDREN OF THE MOUNTAIN. Photo by Selasie Djameh.

photos  by Selasie Djameh © Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Children of the Mountain
I60 Productions
in association with Promedia
USA/Ghana | 2016 | Color | 100 min.
World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
for screening times, visit Tribeca

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