Bush Mama: straight outta Watts | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Film » Movie Critic's Choice

Bush Mama: straight outta Watts

Haile Gerima presents a rare screening of his 1976 ghetto drama


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Angry and uncompromising, this 1975 drama by Haile Gerima follows the slow radicalization of a black woman in Watts (the magnetic Barbara O. Jones) as she contends with street crime, brutal police, invasive social workers, a husband in prison, and the pandemic despair of the late Vietnam era. "People who love money are animals," writes her husband (Johnny Weathers), articulating the film's bitter Marxist perspective, and the story is steeped in the mechanisms of economic violence. Gerima made this as a thesis film at UCLA, where he was part of the so-called "LA Rebellion" that produced Charles Burnett and Julie Dash; the aggressive soundtrack and stark black-and-white photography might remind you of Burnett's Killer of Sheep, yet Gerima, an Ethiopian immigrant, comes at the material from a political perspective that seems bold even for this hell-raising school of cinema.

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