Moms are great, so are grandmas, and great grandmas are all the more better. Anthony Prince Leslie wants us to know and utilizing matriarchal nature African culture, Leslie gives us a visually appealing affirmation in a five minute short called Àṣẹ.
So we are home with an African American extended family, and the Àṣẹ – or soul, light, spirit and good vibrations – are meant to come across the screen. Of course, the feeling is enlivened in the the smiles, conversations and the endearing touches of family members.
The Ash Smith cinematography does a pretty good number too. Against the stark white walls and inviting sunlight, the traditional outfits explode in their colorful vibrancy and make a plea for the ancestral homeland. The traditional score (Leslie), which sprinkles in a welcoming dose of chimes, also settles us in and reinforces the point.
Then the film get down to business. The camera ends its aimless pursuit of joyful abandon and makes a beeline for the carrier of the message.
Bethann Hardison is all matriarch and even the camera seems intimidated by her vast and encompassing stare. But when her grandson (Miyaike Fletcher) approaches with a playful request for “a story,” Hardison goes into sweet little Nanna mode to drive the premise.
“The story starts with you,” grandma implores, and she demands that knowing the past is paramount to knowing ourselves. Cutting back to the bigger picture, the group seems to be firmly with the program as the actors sit naturally at ease over dinner, while enjoying the old school food that got them all here today.
Still, not good enough, Nanna makes sure her clan understands the power of life’s trilogy – motherhood, water and light. So the story actually takes to a pool of water and wades us in all three.
But no distinct narrative or ah-ha moment emerges among the revelry. Instead, Àṣẹ is simply a love letter to the vision and the historical insight of all our Nannas – and if you want to rejoice in imagery, sounds and sentiment – feel free to enjoy the quaint little jaunt.