I have served as faculty at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights for close to 15 years, and I have often wondered what possesses the student body, many of whom are recent immigrants to the United States, to leave their homelands. Why would one join the Afro-Caribbean diaspora in Greater New York? What compels a person to leave? Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s Mother I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You seeks to provide insight into those questions.
The writer and director expatriated a few years ago from Lesotho. The small tribal country is nestled within greater South Africa. From what the documentary depicts, it is about to crumble into ruin. All the traditional forces of colonialism are mentioned: The White Man, Christian Missionaries, and fake holy men all litter the streets of Lesotho. Violence and murder are rampant in the country. Mosese’s film characterizes Lesotho as a place that is about to devour itself.
This film is an avant-garde tone poem. Mother I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You. frames its action around a young woman (Thato Khobotle) who carries a cross through her section of the country. Crowds gather to watch her struggle while Sivan ben Yishai, in a deliberate, slow manner, narrates the actions filmed for our dread.
“…Lesotho…is about to devour itself.”
This is a hard film to watch as the ravages of colonialism have left this tiny country a bleak and suffering place. Daily life is simply terrible. The regret to leave and the determination to find a better place to live are evident even without the narration providing additional context. The film is clearly Mosese’s most personal work, and I can only imagine how agonizing a decision it was to leave one’s home. Sure, it’s not a pleasant place, and the desaturated black and white cinematography portray Lesotho as a nightmare land.
However, as the narration reminds us, it was not always this bleak. Life had been pleasant prior to the arrival of missionaries. The sound of the Muezzin of a local mosque calling people to prayer is utilized for great effect to accentuate the keening, elegiac sense of despair Lesothans clearly feel. Mother I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You. is a deeply mournful final letter to the motherland of Lesotho.
A singular effort by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Mother I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You. will sit in my retinas for quite some time. Between the harrowing depiction of everyday life and the inventory of children(!) murdered before they could reach adulthood, the film exists to remind us that colonization is not a benign action. When one culture interacts with another, it often leads to violent, terrible clashes. This is a film worth watching if you want to know more about the evils inflicted upon Africa as a continent. Well done.
"…a singular effort..."