“…Put a bunch of lines out to the one you want
Till you get it right
Sometimes you don’t get it right
Sometimes you won’t get it right
But when you do it’s out of sight
Sometimes you do get it right” – Me’Shell Ndegeocello “Oysters”
As children we often don’t know or understand why our mothers do what they do, or fully understand the sacrifices that they make for us. They are intentional in creating the puzzle of our childhood memories with love and joy even through some of the most difficult times. Then, we grow up and the intricate details of our mothers start coming into focus, and the puzzle pieces become more complex.
This movie is a complex puzzle of a family history that is more complex than the journey to Grenada during the Revolution when Maurice Bishop became Prime Minister. Mr. Baker lovingly and delicately assembles the story of his mother, Fannie Haughton’s conscious and intentional desire to protect her young children against Reagan’s War on Drugs that severely crippled their hometown of Oakland, CA in the 80s.
To understand Ms. Haughton, the audience and her son must understand the nuances of his ancestors. Finding old film reels of his family, he puts the pieces together in the family story. The audience soon realizes the mother’s actions are a direct product of the past generations on his family tree. The sharecroppers, the first family to integrate their street in South Central LA, or his mother integrating Washington High in Los Angeles. Once you see the puzzle that Mr. Baker assembles, you aren’t surprised that a daughter of the movement moved her children to Grenada. During the film, we both wondered “What sacrifices did my family make for me that I’m not aware of?”
As their now adult children, the audience is faced with two choices when you think about your own mother: seek to understand the sacrifice, or create a narrative of the selfish woman. It is our choice. Mr. Baker chose to understand, and as their adult children…we are grateful.
PS: Ms. Haughton, you got it right.
Reflections from a Grenadian granddaughter:
First off, I want to say this was Lauren’s pick. I had no idea what the topic or even the title of the film was. I just knew we were going to see a documentary at the finale of Atlanta Film Festival. For those who don’t know me, film festival is pretty much all I need to hear to quickly accept an invitation. You can imagine my surprise (cue:jaw drop) when I saw Grenada listed as the backdrop for the narrative. This small island at the bottom of the Carribean sea, often mispronounced Gri-nada by Americans, is one of my homes. This “utopia”, as it is fondly referred to in the film, is where my paternal side of family originates. It’s where my granny’s house is, where our family reunions are and why nutmeg is not just a spice rack accessory.
I love documentaries that transport you. “The House on Coco Road” took us through a journey not only from Oakland to Grenada but through generations. You see how each generation had their trials and how they triumphed despite the tribulations. I have to be honest, I normally avoid films that are heavy handed with showing oppression. This documentary exposed the injustice and misuse of power but you never saw surrender. It’s a heartwarming tale of strength and what the true definition of home is. It most definitely took me to a nostalgic place, not just because of the familiar Grenadian accents but because of the vivid portrayal of our pure childhoods in an impure world.
“The House on Coco Road” Documentary premiere June 2016. Directed by Damani Baker
Running time: 1:18