It’s hard being a mom to three hungry kids in drought-stricken bush country, especially when Dad is a selfish, good-for-nothing layabout. When all there is eat is the occasional plate of grilled bugs and starvation threatens, tempers flare and Dad does the unthinkable. He tricks Mom into falling into a stake-filled pit, killing her. That’s when the dancing termites appear.
Zimbabwe’s Tsitsi Dangarembga has taken a story from African folklore and fashioned it’s into an all-singing, all-dancing tale of cannibalism, revenge, and female empowerment. Like most good film musicals, it takes us to another world that is nevertheless familiar and very relatable. In Dangarembga’s world, dead mothers can sing and dance, rescue their kids, and give reprobate fathers the bleak fate they so richly deserve.
And, while it might be a little bit strange (to Westerners, anyhow) to watch a bunch of guys wearing body suits and giant termite heads boogie around a dead woman who can still dance and outsing 90 percent of this year’s Grammy nominees, “Mother’s Day” is not camp. It’s an alternately disturbing, funny, and exhilarating film and the damndest thing I’ve seen in some time.