Ma, Celia Rowlson-Hall, USA, 2015, 85 min, DCP, No dialogues
A woman crosses the scorching desert in the south-west of the USA on foot. Now is when our cinematic imagination runs wild: endless roads, motels, cacti, swimming pools, people with varying degrees of eeriness, and cowgirl boots. Two additional factors turn this relatively famous landscape into a unique film backdrop, an emotional experience, and a primitive yet modern object-sculpture-film: First, Ma is the Virgin Mary. And second, the entire film is narrated via movement, as though it were a contemporary dance across the landscape. In place of dialogue are looks, gestures, noises, music and bodies moving across the desert in search of a bright star, far in the distance, in a city called Las Vegas.
“MA is a story that came out of me in a subconscious form. In writing and making this movie, I pressed my ear to the ground- I wanted to listen and extract what all those women dead in the earth had to say. I set out to tell their untold stories. What I discovered after completing the film was that I had made something so essential to my own growth as a woman. Making this film allowed me to crack open and grieve and live again. I now view my filmmaking as a way to grow and explore within my life, acknowledging and embracing that my art and life are not separate. Creating is essential to my existence; the breaking and growing at the core of my transformation. I let my work change me because I trust what’s inside.
This was the most personal story to date- an image driven inquiry into relationships, gender-bending and using the body as a storytelling vehicle- all the while viewed through the lens of our most famous mother, Mary.
Reinvented and told entirely through movement, the film deconstructs the role of this woman, who encounters a world full of bold characters that are alternately terrifying and sublime. MA was influenced by my early understanding of the Bible, and yet so connected to my own journeys, my own failures, and love. I set out to document two parallel treks toward salvation within the context of man vs. nature.
MA is on her way to Las Vegas for the selfless, spiritual task of giving birth to a savior, while Daniel her foil and eventual partner, is en route to Hollywood to become an actor. I’ve been obsessed with Jesus ever since I was a small kid, and even wrote on school papers that I wanted to be him when I grew up, totally in love with the concept of personally devoting one’s life to healing the pain of others. But what has always perplexed me is the lack of narrative surrounding the mother in the Bible. Everyone knows of Mother Mary, but no one knows her. In these stories of great men- we always start with their beginning- the baby on the doorstep, hidden in the bullrushes etc etc... But what about HER? Who is she and how did she get here? What was her journey, really? And how much choice did she have in this all?
This is a story about the end of the beginning”.