The pregnant women in the marketplace avoid her foodstand, afraid that whatever twisted her baby in the womb is contagious. Her mother says it came out deformed and dumb because she ate rabbit meat while she was pregnant. Her mother-in-law says it’s because she’s evil. The other villagers just say she has a “dirty womb.” The pediatricians at the nice hospitals use strange English words like “clept lip,” “cerebral palsy,” and “Down’s Syndrome.”
But the medicine man in her parents’ village says the child has “fish disease” and is more suited for living in the water than on the land. No matter where she looks, she cannot find a cure for her baby boy. The local doctor is a crook, the holy man a perverted charlatan. Folk remedies fail and Western doctors are too expensive. There is a legend that abandoned babies are gathered up by spirits living in the mountains, but Essuman (Rukiyat Masud) is unsure. But what else is there to do?
The debut feature by Ghanaian director Priscilla Anany, “Children of the Mountain” is a quiet, heartrending tale of motherhood.
Many of the story’s vignettes are familiar as they have been used in other independent films before this one about the women of the developing world. Yet Anany’s eye proves equally caustic and sympathetic to her native country.
“Children of the Mountain” sees Ghana at a crossroads between science and superstition, equally quick to cling to the past and to yearn for the future. It is this Ghana which makes the film stand out–dynamic, colorful, and as in the films of Ousmane Sembène, perfectly capable of solving its own problems.
“Children” is a leisurely sit, seeming to emulate the more casual “Ghanaian Time” which Anany described in interviews as characteristic of Ghana: people rarely showing up on time, coming and going on their own schedules. But somehow I feel cutting it down would have cheapened it and diluted its emotional impact. Sometimes it is better to sit and observe and let the world of a film wash over us.