motherlandGigantic Digital is an online service which enables viewers to watch movies on their computers for $2.99 for a three day rental.  The service also has movies that can be watched free of charge.  Gigantic Digital claims to be the future of independent film going and they may have a point.  While I’m a purist who prefers seeing movies in theatres (despite the 100 plus DVDs and video tapes that decorate my apartment) I have to admit that this is an interesting service, and at $2.99 a “steal” compared to the rates my cable company charges for pay per view movies.  The Gigantic Digital website is easy to navigate and the picture quality of the programs I watched was very good.  In addition to visiting the site I watched a preview DVD of one of Gigantic Digital’s offerings, a documentary called “Motherland,” available for viewing starting on August 26.  I made a point of watching “Motherland” on my computer, as opposed to my big screen TV, in order to ensure that I was having the complete online viewing experience. 

“Motherland” is probably the most honest profile about grief that I have ever seen.  The documentary follows a group of six women, each of whom has lost a child (in one case a brother).  Director Jennifer Steinman, a friend of one of the women, organized a trip to South Africa for this group to work with children and families affected by poverty and AIDS.  As Helena, one of the mothers, puts it “Both populations are in need of healing.  Myself included in that.”  The trip’s purpose is for the women to support each other and be of service to women and children in another land and through this volunteer experience hopefully achieve healing.

The women are all very straight forward about the deaths of their children and how they have tried, and continue to try, to cope with these unimaginable situations.  It is a real tribute to Steinman that she was able to get such honest testimonies on camera.  Talking about their losses could not have been easy under any circumstances for these women, much less having to do it on camera.  Despite this all six come across as very articulate.  The idea that Steinman must have really had to gain the trust of each member of this group is an understatement.  One woman, whose daughter committed suicide, talks about the idea of not wanting to heal because she does not want to lose the feeling of grief she experienced when she found her daughter’s body.  Another mother talks about having no definition of “normal” after her child’s death.   Still another talks about feeling punished by God.  One member keeps to herself and wont open up to the other members of the group who find the group is the only place where they can be themselves.  As Debbi, one of the mothers, puts it, “For me not to have to be happy for those 17 days (of the trip) is going to be a relief.”

What these women learn from each other and from the women and children they meet and work with in South Africa makes for a story that is frank, sad and ultimately life affirming, but with no easy solutions.

Gigantic Digital is at

“Motherland,” director Jennifer Steinman , 20009

Smush Media, 80 minutes


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 21, 2009, in Documentary. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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