Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker’s documentary The Great Mother (or La Gran Madre) concerns itself with subject Nora Sandigo the legal guardian of 850 (at the start of the film, nearly 2,000 by the end) children whose undocumented parents have been deported from the United States. While she doesn’t house these kids, her life’s work is to feed, educate, and provide a motherly figure to children living in America without their mothers and fathers.
Early on, we’re introduced to the Travi family from Colombia. Parents Olga and Julio fear for the lives of their children – Valerie and Matthew – as Julio, a former police officer, has been targeted by drug cartels. Nora takes these kids in and this storyline provides the most heartbreaking element of the film. Seeing these parents in Colombia without their children is quite difficult to watch.
Much of the documentary takes place before the Trump administration. It focuses upon the potential ratification of President Obama’s DACA and DAPA Executive Orders in the Supreme Court, which would grant illegal immigrants deferred action for parents of children with American citizenship. This is where the film becomes its most frustrating. We know that those orders didn’t pass, and (as the closing credits remind us) that under President Trump, deportations went up 40%. That’s life, and that’s reality, but for a film so full of hope and faith to stop (though Ms. Sandigo keeps fighting and advocating) in such a hopeless place is difficult to swallow.
While I found the film inspiring, the pacing was an issue. It feels longer than it is. I was never quite bored, but it does drag.
Still, this is an important movie to see in this day and age, and the work Ms. Sandigo is doing is nothing less than extraordinary.