ALLY Review in Bitch Magazine (Spring 2012 issue)February 29, 2012
A Lot Like You
Director: Eliaichi Kimaro
The documentary A Lot Like You begins with an image of the filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro’s daughter, Lucy, with Kimaro wondering in voiceover how she will answer the inevitable question of mixed-race children: “What am I, Mama?” A viewer might expect that such a question will result in a film that celebrates Kimaro’s cultural background; what they may not expect is one that reveals and confronts a history of violence, sexual abuse, and intergenerational trauma.
The daughter of a Tanzanian father—a member of the Chagga tribe—and a Korean mother, raised along with her brother in a suburb of Washington, DC, Kimaro describes feeling like she never fit in with either African-American or Korean-American communities. She began the film project in search of her own cultural history—“the roots of [her] blackness”— and it’s during a family trip to Tanzania to learn more about her father’s tribe that she discovers the surprising and unnerving connection to the women in her family that propels the riveting film.
Kimaro’s aunts, filmed at a family gathering, express bitterness at having been denied the education afforded the males in the family like Kimaro’s father, who earned a scholarship to pursue his PhD in economics in the United States. Later, filmed without their brothers present, the aunts describe, in brutal detail, the marriage rituals that involved coercion, rape, and trauma. As a survivor herself—she reveals in voiceover that she was raped at age 7, and later spent 12 years working as a domestic violence counselor—Kimaro bears witness to her aunts’ stories while positioning the audience to bear witness to the larger story of Kimaro confronting gendered violence within the family.
By moving toward, rather than away from, the painful aspects of her family history, Kimaro breaks the family silence that’s become complicit in its trauma. And by documenting this sensitive and complex process of truth-seeking within her family, Kimaro provides a model for all of us to confront past violence in order to envision healthier futures. The film ends with another image of Lucy, held in the arms of one of Kimaro’s aunts, making clear that Kimaro is passing on a different cultural legacy to her daughter—one that refuses to accept gendered violence as the norm.
— WENDY ELISHEVA SOMERSON
BEFORE YOU SEE IT: Make a plan to debrief with a friend afterward— this is intense.
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