Film Review: Umbilical Cords

By Jen Thorpe

Umbilical Cords is a South African documentary from film maker Sarah Ping Nie Jones. The film is an exploration of the difficult relationships that sometimes form between mothers and daughters. Filmed by Sarah, it follows the path of three young women as they negotiate their own difficult relationships. Sarah, part Chinese-Malay, part Engish, living in South Africa and her mother Hilary who lives in London. Mayra, an Argentinian young woman who grew up in South Africa and her mother Anna Maria. And Zanele, who originates from Lesotho, and her mother Tsepiso who lives in Botswana.

It is a film that makes you think about the relationship you have with your own mother, and how difficult it can be sometimes to understand and communicate with someone you know and love so much. It shows just how easy it can become to accept the difficulties in an emotionally overdetermined relationship like those between mothers and daughters, and how hard it can be to talk about the things you really want to share. The film spans five years – quite a feat in itself.

It is a film shot from the perspective of daughters, and at times it can feel quite hard on the mothers in the relationships. Despite the different nationalities, ages and experiences of the women interviewed there is a feeling that the same challenges in relationships between mothers and daughters might have existed 100 years ago. They are issues of love, relationships, forgiveness, resentment, and speaking about feelings. The most important message of the film is that you can wait around your whole life for someone else to change, but really, you can only change yourself. It highlights the political within the personal.

It’s a film that makes you want to call your mom and tell her you love her – even when you are so alike, but so different.

It’s screening at the Encounters film Festival with the film Alekazam at the following dates and times:

CT: NuMetro V&A Waterfront Fri 8 6.45 Q&A | Fugard Thurs 14 6.30 | NuMetro V&A Waterfront Sun 24 8
Jozi: NuMetro Hyde Park Mon 11 6.30 | BioScope Sat 23 6

Go watch it with your mom.


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