MOTHER, I AM SUFFOCATING. THIS IS MY LAST FILM ABOUT YOU. -- An Interesting Experimentation with Nonfiction Storytelling
Review by Sean Boelman
Mosotho filmmaker Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s third feature This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection was released to great acclaim recently (and was his country’s unnominated submission for Best International Feature at last year’s Academy Awards), so it only makes sense that there is interest in his previous work. Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. may be highly experimental in nature, but it is also very powerful in what it has to say.
The movie is set in a community in Lesotho, as a young woman roams through the streets carrying a cross on her back. It’s a very symbolic film, with less of an emphasis on the images themselves and more on what they mean. It doesn’t take much to figure out where Mosese is going with his work, but it’s still going to test the patience of a lot of viewers.
Still, that isn’t to say that the images that Mosese presents aren’t powerful. Pretty much anytime that religious imagery is involved, it is going to elicit a strong reaction from the audience, and in this case, it is meant to incite. And provoke it does, challenging the viewer to create an association between what they know and what they see.
The cinematography in the film is shot in crisp black-and-white, and it’s absolutely a sight to behold. It’s a gorgeous style that gives the movie a surreal, somewhat nostalgic feel to it. And of course, the framing is excellent, as the positioning of the shots is what creates a lot of the symbolic meaning.
It’s really interesting to see the ways in which Mosese challenges the conventions of nonfiction filmmaking. Although the film clearly resembles a documentary in the way it depicts the reality of the society in which it is set, it also imposes this symbolic figure into the narrative. As such, the movie becomes much more about an emotional truth than an objective one.
There is also the question of the narration in the film, and quite frankly, whether it is even necessary. There is a poetic, almost lyrical quality to the words that accompany the images, but one could argue that the footage speaks loud enough on its own. At a certain point, it begins to feel like the filmmaker holding the viewer’s hand through the process.
At its core, the movie is a glimpse into a culture very different from the one we are familiar with, and as is the case with every film like that, it is important to approach this with an open mind. The questions that Mosese poses about the intersection of religion and aspects of daily life are perhaps the most interesting part of the movie.
Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who get on its very unique wavelength, it will be a compelling watch. In terms of experimental nonfiction, it’s one of the most successful outings in recent years.
Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. hits theaters and virtual cinemas on November 12.