A Black girl sits next to her mom and dad on a couch, all smiling. She is pointing at a smartphone that they are looking at together.

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Parents' Guide to

In Our Mothers' Gardens

By Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Language, violence in docu with worthy messages.

Movie NR 2021 84 minutes
In Our Mothers' Gardens Poster Image

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Women, especially women of color, will appreciate the honest, intimate, and insightful stories and sentiments this engaging documentary elicits from its subjects. Whether In Our Mothers' Gardens will speak to other audiences remains to be seen, but it's certainly worth the try. Some of the life experiences the interviewees describe aren't easy to swallow, yet the film is able to tackle subjects like slavery, racism, inequality, and abuse in a subtle and profound way through their personal anecdotes. That's a nod to the interviewing skills of director Lewis, who also tells her own story on screen, as well as to the subjects' willingness to share private, not always flattering, details about their lives and families. The message that Black women have lived a unique experience of struggle, but also of caretaking and torch-bearing, comes across loud and clear. The interviewees' descriptions of carrying on some traditions while also breaking out of past negative patterns offer a critical but simultaneously optimistic take.

The documentary does leave some topics less explored than others, and a case could be made that the film would've gained from a greater variety of female subjects. All of the women interviewed are successful professionals. Most are around the same age, which conditions the topics covered -- for example, their own motherhood doesn't come up. Director Lewis makes the alarming statement that Black women today are less healthy than they were "on the plantations," where they suffered a range of horrific abuses, but the film conspicuously avoids directly addressing the problem of obesity, even when one of the interviewees mentions weighing nearly 500 pounds at a difficult period in her life. The perspectives of the foreign-born interviewees and some of the older women are a nice complement, and the colorful framing of the documentary's subjects with photographs and layers of photo-shopped images of flowers and leaves, proverbial "gardens," was a bold but attractive choice. As one woman summarizes, "You can't have a short memory and be Black." This film offers a tribute to the memory of Black women who have come before and a vision of where some today are headed.

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