Bush Mama

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Bush Mama
Directed by Haile Gerima
Starring Barbarao, Johnny Weathers
Release date(s) 1979
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Bush Mama is an American film made by Ethiopian-American director Haile Gerima, part of the L.A. Rebellion movement of political and experimental black cinema in the 1970s. It was released in 1979 though made earlier, in 1975.[1][2]


The film was made by Gerima as his thesis project at the University of California at Los Angeles, shot on a small budget. It was directed, produced and edited by Gerima with cinematography by Roderick Young and Charles Burnett.[1]

The first half is filmed in a cinema vérité style, making heavy use of improvisation, while the second half moves away from naturalism towards a Godardian agit prop approach.[3]


Bush Mama is the story of Dorothy and her husband T.C. He is a discharged Vietnam veteran who thought he would return home to a "hero's welcome." Instead he is falsely arrested and imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. Her life revolves around the welfare office and a community facing poverty and unemployment. As a result of the film's events, both the main characters become radicalized and Dorothy eventually turns to violence.[1]


  • Barbarao (as Barbara O. Jones) - Dorothy
  • Johnny Weathers - T.C.
  • Susan Williams - Luann
  • Cora Lee Day - Molly
  • Simmi Ella Nelson - Simmi
  • Bettie J. Wilson - Social Worker
  • Bob Ogburn Jr. - Dahomey man
  • Ben Collins - Ben
  • Renna Kraft - Angi
  • Darian Gibbs - Young Street Boy
  • Minnie Stewart - 1st Welfare Recipient
  • Malbertha Pickett - 2nd Welfare Recipient
  • Bertha Yates - Secretary
  • Chris Clay - Policeman
  • Charles David Brooks III - Preacher

Critical reception[edit]

The film received "wide critical acclaim" and was "showcased at many major international film festivals."[4] The New York Times called it "fiery, furious, overflowing with rhetoric and slightly out of breath", praising the main actors but saying the director's fierce polemic sometime overwhelms the dramatic aspects of the film.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Janet Maslin, "Review: Bush Mama (1976)". New York Times, September 25, 1979. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9F07E2DA1638E732A25756C2A96F9C946890D6CF
  2. ^ "Haile Gerima", UCLA Cinema website. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/la-rebellion/haile-gerima
  3. ^ "Bush Mama (1976)". The Seventh Art. June 12, 2010. http://theseventhart.info/tag/killer-of-sheep/
  4. ^ Tony Safford and William Triplett, "Haile Gerima: Radical Departures to a New Black Cinema". Journal of the University Film and Video Association, Vol. 35, No. 2, INDEPENDENT AMERICAN NARRATIVE FILMMAKING (Spring 1983), pp. 59-65

External links[edit]