THE BASTARD SINGS THE SWEETEST SONG
Directors: Christy Garland
In Georgetown, Guyana, we meet Mary, a charming 74 year old poet with a brilliant wit - as well as a very serious drinking problem. Muscle, her son, strives mightily to lift his family out of poverty and into the middle class. He worries his mother's drinking will have her end up in hospital. He decides that the only way to protect her is to act as jailor and have her locked in her room for most of her days. What may appear to be a story of a brutal, controlling son and a drunk, forlorn old woman, is actually that of an incredibly courageous family battling through poverty to rid themselves of the shackles of their past.
Muscle is a busy man. He has his eye fixed firmly on the middle class, hoping to pull his extended family up with him. In the meantime, his birds need constant attention, as he ekes out a living raising the fighting songbirds. He tries, with minimal success, to wean his mother off the booze. Mary has had a number of falls on her frequent "escapes" outside the family compound, searching for drink. She drinks to forget, in particular to drown out the night, which she has good reason to dread. She's still able to recite by heart some of her moving poems, to her family who listen with love and admiration. But her determination to thwart Muscle, coupled with his flawed attempts to control her drinking, leads her son to take more drastic action.
But what has brought them to this crisis point? As their brutal, harrowing and loving story unfolds we hear of a past dominated by Muscle's father, an extremely violent man that Mary left after years of abuse and unspeakable horrors inflicted on her children.
Mary tells us she knows that she's dying, and isn't afraid - she even sillily jokes about it. In this way, she seems finally free when Muscle's worst fear comes true. With her love, poetry, humor and grit, she has given Muscle the resilience to fight the demons of the past, and "keep his family close".
This is an emotional journey that depicts class struggle and the hardship of poverty, making this a documentary film that turns the subtly political deeply personal. Although Mary and Muscle's world is far from familiar, their efforts to live life on their own terms are comical and courageous, flawed and heart-breaking, but above all, uplifting and life-affirming - like the tales of many families.
Produced by Murmur Film, Canada
Duration: 56' & 71'
Pause Film, Denmark
Final Cut for Real, Denmark
BEST FILM - RAI Festival of Ethnographic Film in Edinburgh 2012
BEST CARIBBEAN FEATURE BY AN INTERNATIONAL FILMMAKER - Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival 2012
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival 2012
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Sheffield Doc/Fest 2012
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