Doechii and Tia Nomore in Earth Mama

Young, single parent Gia (Tia Nomore) already has two children in foster care and is now pregnant with a third. She is stuck in a dead-end job at a photographer’s studio and unable to work more hours due to restrictions on her benefits.

Earth Mama, Savannah Leaf’s debut film, tells Gia’s story as one of the great contradictions of capitalism. The system enforces an ideology of women as caregivers and mothers while simultaneously ripping families apart.

Gia’s unhappiness is highlighted while watching other expectant parents coming in to take photos and attempting to put together a crib single-handed.  Sharply lit indoor scenes of work and spending her allocated time with her children are juxtaposed with scenes of nature. She imagines sitting quietly in lush green forests, holding her growing belly.

One scene sees her pull at her umbilical cord as if to look more like a tree branch. Gia gets dragged back to reality. And although she sees herself as part of nature and the Earth, her current position is inescapable.

She must go to group therapy as part of the requirements to get her children out of the foster system.

Early on one woman says, “You still won’t feel what I feel,” after describing her suffering at the hands of generational cycles of poverty and abuse.

This is the crux of the film. When various women are describing their relationships with their own mothers as messy and complex, a generational trauma resurfaces.

A sympathetic, non-judgmental lens is given to these experiences. That’s particularly true of mothers who have been victims of drug addictions, influenced by their own mothers’ battles with drugs and alcohol.

It is important that the majority of the women in this film are black women and that they are being treated as sensitive subjects. Racism and sexism come together along with class exploitation to create Gia’s suffering.

The film does not have a happy ending. And however harrowing that is to watch, it feels necessary. While the fantastical elements of the film help to give it a lightness, the way this story ends is a step forward for films about black, working class women.

Gia is her own character rather than a caricature of black suffering, in a portrayal not often given to black motherhood. She is a fully-rounded person. She is capable of doing both good and bad, as she grapples with the decision of whether to have her child adopted or not when its born.

Earth Mama is in cinema’s now

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