Sitting upon the endless red clay of northern Ghana is the village of Mamakrom and a school built on the very foundation of hope and compassion. The new documentary, understandably titled “Mamakrom”, is made with the same passion and solicitude as its namesake. Filmmakers Joseph Pelegreen and Matt Lang have put together something anchored by a heartfelt love for a struggling region and a genuine desire to see true and meaningful change.
“Mamakrom” showed at this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and competed in the International Features category. The film is clearly a passion project and is imbued with the empathy and aspiration of its makers. It’s an eye-opening doc inspired by a decade’s worth of first-hand observation and experience. From the opening frames it’s clear this is something near and dear to hearts of those in front of and behind the cameras.
You could say “Mamakrom” is as educational as it is inspirational. Pelegreen (who serves as the film’s director) puts a lot of time into developing the setting and situation for his viewers. Through evocative imagery and the words of local workers for change, the film vividly captures the region’s abject poverty. It talks about famine and drought. It highlights the dangers of malaria and waterborne diseases in a place with limited access to ￼healthcare. This directly connects to the most heartbreaking reality – the high mortality rate specifically among children.
With a clear-eyed perspective Pelegreen and Lang highlight the region’s most critical needs: health, development, and (the film’s biggest focus) education. “Educate a child and you’ll change his life forever.” But doing so in northern Ghana comes with its own set of intense challenges. The lack of infrastructure, the poor quality of the schoolhouses, the inability to find and maintain teachers – all of these things combined with the deeper health and quality of life struggles puts any aspiration of a burgeoning education system instantly behind the proverbial eight ball.
But one of the joys of “Mamakrom” is that it offers hope that even obstacles which seem insurmountable can be overcome by those willing to commit themselves and answer the call to action. This is embodied in the missions-based ESI Foundation (an acronym for Every Souls Important). The group has been a steady presence in Marakrom pouring time, money, and love into the children and their future. The film shows the fruits of the ESI’s investments – the construction of new school buildings, a library, and teachers quarters. More importantly, we get a taste of the impact they are having on the lives of the students. It’s all working towards building a better future for the people of Ghana, not through dependability but self-sustainability.
The film makes several other insightful observations, such as how the the aforementioned high mortality rate actually leads to a higher birth rate as families painfully try and compensate for the children they will inevitably lose. Or how the influx of used clothing and imported produce, though well-intended, has adverse effects on local markets. But while the health crisis is heartbreaking and the region’s economic complexities are compelling, the film always comes back to its faith-fueled hope of a better future for Ghanaians. “Mamakrom” doesn’t hide its intentions. It wants to open eyes and move people to action. And what better way to do that than by showing that such actions are not in vain.￼
“Mamakrom” is scheduled to show at several upcoming film festivals and it’s currently fielding offers for distribution.
VERDICT – 4 STARS