ME BRONI BA (MY WHITE BABY)
Weaving together sequences of hair-braiding salons in Ghana, voice-over of Oprah rhapsodizing brown-skinned dolls and animated clips of signature hairstyles, Me Broni Ba (My White Baby) is an artfully composed, thought-provoking work that investigates the fraught relationship between images of beauty and power.
Set to an energetic, funk-infused score, Me Broni Ba unfolds through a series of intricately structured vignettes and potent images – none more so than that of young African girls playing with white baby dolls from the West. The film mixes grainy black & white footage with colorful shots of billboards and murals advertising various hair styles. It incorporates audio snippets of beauty instruction and tips (circa 1950s) as well as an emotionally resonant story of a young child’s migration from Africa to the United States and her painful efforts to fit in.
This one-of-a-kind documentary subtly reveals the tangled legacy of European colonialism in Africa in the context of an illuminating discussion of race, beauty and identity.
Directed by Akosua Adoma Owusu
2009, 22 minutes
Purchase: $210 | Classroom Rental: $95
* Winner, Best Documentary Short, Chicago Underground Film Festival, 2009
* Winner, Second Prize, Best Documentary Short, Athens International Film Festival, 2009
* Official Selection, Museum of Modern Art, Documentary Fortnight, 2009
* Official Selection, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2009
* Official Selection, Silverdocs Film Festival, 2009
* Official Selection, London Film Festival
“[Three stars] An interesting and evocative film. Recommended.” - Video Librarian
“This interesting mixture of live-action footage and animation addresses issues of race, culture, hair, and beauty… A thought-provoking film.” - Booklist
“An artful film… This film would be of use in a women’s or gender studies classroom, especially when discussing race and gender, as well as a larger library collection supporting postcolonial studies and African or African American studies curricula and research… Hair is the aperture through which race is explored, though images of poverty, cross-racial and international adoptions (‘baby dolls’ in another sense) are included to broaden the scope of the film. Recommended.” - Educational Media Reviews Online
“One of the revelations at the 2010 Rotterdam Film Festival was this twenty-two-minute experimental documentary by a young Ghanaian-American artist…. The final sequence, a slo-mo hair-flip set to a rendition of ‘This Land Is Your Land’ by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, tops off the critique with a moment of absolute exhilaration.” - Artforum
"If Chris Rock's Good Hair is an American arena concert, Akosua Adoma Owusu's Me Broni Ba is a secret show: intimate, and the ideal realization of the vision of a valuable genius." - SF Weekly
"A funky, impressionistic documentary on hair salons in Ghana and the politics of appearance." - Senses of Cinema
“Powerful.” – Washington City Paper
“Evocative. Raises issues of gender, race, and beauty by roaming over the treatments of women’s hair in modern Ghana.” - Anthropology Review Databse
“What’s unique in Akosua Adoma’s film is the mixture of fact and creative storytelling; the clash of jazzy tunes, documentary footage, slow motion images, and audio and sound tracks that shift in and out of synch. It’s a mood piece, a meditation, a refusal to judge. It’s also edgy, fresh, and fun to watch.” - MTV