SxSW 2021 Interview – BANTU MAMA director Ivan Herrera

Bantú Mama is the journey of Emma, an Afropean woman from the Paris suburbs that while “vacationing” in the Caribbean finds herself involved in a series of unexpected situations that ends up in her detention by the local drug enforcement authorities. Emma manages to escape, finding shelter in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of the Dominican Republic, where she is protected by a group of underage kids, while at the same time, becoming their mother figure.

Having its World Premiere in the Global section at SxSW 2021 Online, we talk with director Ivan Herrera with BANTU MAMA. 

Welcome to SxSW! Is this your first SxSW experience?

It is my first film in SXSW and the first Dominican Republic’s feature length narrative to be selected to this prestigious platform!

So let’s hear more about you and how you got started in the business and what you have worked on in the past!

My first contact with the professional audiovisual industry in my homeland of the Dominican Republic was through the Advertising world. Currently based in the north coast of the island where with my partners we run, a production services company that works with foreign productions looking to shoot their projects in our territory or any other island of the Caribbean.

A variety of projects including music videos for artists such as Vince Staple, Tyler the creator,  Travis Scott and John Legend, have trust to shoot their projects with us in partnership with the producers and directors such as L.A. based production company, Happy Place tv and Director Nabil Elderkin, among others.

How did BANTU MAMA come together?

The film is co-wrote with my partner Clarisse Albrecht, who also plays the principal role in the film. It is a project we had been talking about for a bit of time, knowing that we wanted to tell a story related to her as an Afropean woman and me as an Afrocaribbean. A story that could see their characters living between Europe, the Caribbean and Africa.

We shot the film among very close friends and collaborators that wanted to take part in bringing to life a different vision and narrative of the Caribbean. 

What was your biggest challenge and what was the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

Biggest challenge was definitely to work with non-actor kids. Trying to keep them concentrated, focused and in tune with the film we wanted to achieve, making sure not to lose control of the narrative. The biggest satisfaction was the news of our selection for the world premiere at SXSW21!

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it was made. 

I worked very close with good friend and cinematographer Sebastian Cabrera. We knew we wanted to have a film that even if it was shot at a very poor neighborhood of the Dominican Republic, our focus was going to be the beauty of it instead of the chaos around its corners. 

I’m a still photographer and photography is the medium of expression where I find myself with more freedom and which brings the most satisfaction while looking at the world, places and people through my 50mm lens. 

We wanted to emulate my photography on the film and we started a conversation with Sebastian and our friends at Berlin’s Vantage Hawk rental house and finally made the decision to shoot the entire film with only one lens, a 60mm anamorphic that would serve as the perfect instrument to capture our images into the camera sensor of a Red Epic and evolve my 50mm still photography into a 60mm Anamorphic motion picture.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW Online?

Looking forward to the reaction, comments and critics of a wide audience such as the one of SXSW.  Hoping to create a discussion around the subject and to find interest for the film in the rest of the world and find a theatrical presentation as soon as the world health situation allows it.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival? 

It was a great pleasure to watch my good friend Nelson Carlo de los Santos’s  film COCOTE at a special presentation in Cannes in the year 2017. It didn’t only made me proud to see good cinema coming from the Dominican Republic,  but also made me believe that yes, its possible.

This film and many others like it will be showing at the virtual South By Southwest taking place March 16-20th. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to

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