‘A Mother Apart’ Documentary will be Featured at Inside Out Film Festival

Alison Duke

By Neil Armstrong

A Canadian documentary about mothering that had its world premiere at the recently held Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and was well supported will be featured in the upcoming Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival.

Not only did the film’s producer Alison Duke win an award at the festival for “A Mother Apart,” but the documentary also placed third in the Hot Docs Audience Awards. Oya Media Group, which was co-founded by Duke and Ngardy Conteh George in 2018, posted on Facebook that out of 2800 submissions and 168 films, the film made “Top 3 on the Hot Docs Audience Favourite list.”

The almost 90-minute documentary, was written by Laurie Townshend and Alison Duke, directed by Townshend, and produced by Duke and Ngardy Conteh George of Oya Media Group, and Justine Pimlott, Chanda Chevannes, and Anita Lee of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

The Oya Media Group and National Film Board of Canada co-production shares the story of Staceyann Chin who embodies multiple complex identities—poet, activist, lesbian, Jamaican American, mother. But the most complicated of all is “daughter,” notes a description by the NFB.

“Abandoned by her mother as a child, Staceyann has been seeking her out for decades, travelling the globe in a one-sided attempt to forge a meaningful bond with the woman who brought her into the world.

“And now, as the sole parent of nine-year-old Zuri, she wrestles with an all-consuming dilemma: how to mother a daughter when your own mother was missing in action.”

Describing the documentary as an extraordinary tale of grace and forgiveness, the NFB said Townshend profiles one woman’s inspired and deeply intentional parenting. 

“A Mother Apart catches up with Staceyann as she picks up the trail of her elusive mother—a trail that leads to Brooklyn, Montreal, Cologne and, finally, back to her native Jamaica. Along the way she just may find the sense of home she’s been longing for.

“A healing journey spanning three generations, the film is punctuated with vivid animation, imagery from personal archives and excerpts from Staceyann’s arresting live performances. Her singularly intersectional voice, showcased in the legendary Def Poetry Slam and hit solo shows like MotherStruck!, infuses A Mother Apart with deep compassion and commanding intelligence.”

Speaking about the documentary in an interview in 2020, Townshend said Chin was at a point in her life where she realized that the trauma of having been left behind in Jamaica as an infant was cropping up in her life in different ways.

“As a public figure, as a person who is on the frontlines, as a mother who is raising a girl child, she is very concerned about how that intergenerational trauma is impacting her mothering and her ability to stand as an example within her community.”

Townshend said it was a fascinating journey that Chin’s mother made from rural Jamaica to Montreal in the 70s and 80s, and eventually moved to Germany.

Chin visited the home where her mother lived in Montreal and to which she wrote numerous letters while a child in Jamaica.

Duke received the Don Haig Award, which was announced at the beginning of the Hot Docs Festival.

“A Mother Apart” will be featured at the Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival on June 1 at the TIFF Lightbox.

And the Canadian premier of “Dalton’s Dream” will take place on May 25 at the TIFF Lightbox.

“Singer Dalton Harris’s dreams came true when he won The X Factor in the UK in 2018. But the joy of winning was mixed with pain when people back home in Jamaica threatened boycotts and violence against him, perceiving Dalton to be gay after seeing a photo of him sitting on a man’s lap. This compelling and honest documentary by acclaimed director Kim Longinotto and newcomer Franky Murray Brown looks at a talented artist working to overcome a childhood filled with poverty and violence and find success in the face of mental health challenges, amidst the struggle to be open about his sexuality. This film contains discussions around homophobia,” notes a synopsis.