1

Curtis Caesar John

As I’m told, motherhood can be as beautiful as it is challenging. I’m confident that Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) has been told this many a time, but also certain that she’s never quite listened to those words until now.

Living happily in her little community in Accra, pregnant for the man she unconditionally, but stupidly loves, Essuman’s joyous existence is broken when she gives birth early and discovers that her child has a cleft lip (aka cleft palate), an opening in the lip and the roof of his mouth. Saliently saddened by baby Nuku’s deformity, she soon after discovers that he also isn’t growing correctly, and has both cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Even her dreamboat boyfriend Edjah, whom she callously stole from her neighbor, disowns her and the baby.

Only her barren best friend Asantewaa (Akofa Edjeani) has got Essuman’s back against the hordes of old wives’ tales and superstition that exclaim the young mother has a ‘dirty womb’ and that Nuku’s disabilities are the work of the devil. Though repeatedly going through several crises of confidence and selfishness, Essuman still manages to search for cures – from doctors, to bushmen, to religious leaders. But she ultimately discovers that her true path may be back home in the rural mountain region, where the souls of children are said to wait for a promising future.

There’s no mistaking that Children ...

As I’m told, motherhood can be as beautiful as it is challenging. I’m confident that Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) has been told this many a time, but also certain that she’s never quite listened to those words until now.

Living happily in her little community in Accra, pregnant for the man she unconditionally, but stupidly loves, Essuman’s joyous existence is broken when she gives birth early and discovers that her child has a cleft lip (aka cleft palate), an opening in the lip and the roof of his mouth. Saliently saddened by baby Nuku’s deformity, she soon after discovers that he also isn’t growing correctly, and has both cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. Even her dreamboat boyfriend Edjah, whom she callously stole from her neighbor, disowns her and the baby.

Only her barren best friend Asantewaa (Akofa Edjeani) has got Essuman’s back against the hordes of old wives’ tales and superstition that exclaim the young mother has a ‘dirty womb’ and that Nuku’s disabilities are the work of the devil. Though repeatedly going through several crises of confidence and selfishness, Essuman still manages to search for cures – from doctors, to bushmen, to religious leaders. But she ultimately discovers that her true path may be back home in the rural mountain region, where the souls of children are said to wait for a promising future.

There’s no mistaking that Children of the Mountain is a lot to take in. Essuman’s actions, and ignorance, are often alarming, but also make for some good armrest-clenching drama. Initially, baby Nuku’s disabilities made the tensions in Lee Daniels’ 2009 movie Precious look like a fairytale, but he soon warms your heart, as does his mother’s struggles. Director Priscilla Anany, a Ghanian native who migrated to the United States in her youth and studied filmmaking stateside, expertly displays the ups and downs of motherhood and womanhood. Anany surrounds her protagonist with all the extra-negative and extremely positive examples of both, and of life.

With a wonderfully set cast and fluid drama and direction, Children of the Mountain is one of the most refreshing African-focused tales to come out of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. That an actual African perspective tells it makes the film all the more worthwhile.

Share this!