Candid conversations with a mother are also the central driving force in Mexican-tzotzil filmmaker Xun Sero’s moving film. Mom.
The documentary opens evocatively with an extended scene of a crackling fire heating an iron pot, a woman’s hands stoking wood – a sight and sound that must sound familiar to Sero, who grew up with this type of traditional cuisine in Chiapas. The sequence also establishes the domestic space and hard work to which so many Tzotzil women are relegated.
Always placid, a woman of few words, her mother slowly reveals her sad story to her. “Things that happen to you, son, aren’t always what you want,” she begins, in what turns out to be the ultimate understatement.
Sero openly discusses the derision he faced growing up as the “illegitimate” child of a single mother, as well as the blame and anger he directed at her. What he comes to see is the quiet courage of a woman who refused to be forced into a childhood marriage and who faced the extreme shame of her community and the violent anger of her father after a sexual assault. Voiced about making tortillas and rabbit skin, the story is deeply moving, primarily because you can feel his son’s vision of his entire life and his relationship with his mother, moving poignantly through the act of speaking and filming.
As It runs in the family, Mom is also very linked to a place. When he’s in the towns of Chiapas, Sero’s camera lingers on the women – selling squash on the street, nursing children on street corners, rolling cleaning carts through filthy hotel rooms . But it also immerses us in the remote countryside where he grew up – amid mist billowing above the verdant mountains, crickets and birds fill the thick, damp air, the crackle of corn being separated to make tortilla flour. These impressionistic sights and sounds have an almost magical beauty that stands in stark contrast to the oppression and violence – and the very real threat of murder – that women face behind closed doors.