With the onset of summer, there are a plethora of blockbuster movies on the horizon. But loudness does not always dictate quality. In fact, a quiet, heartwarming new movie from A24 and writer-director Savanah Leaf might leave a more lasting impression on you than the other notable summer releases we read all year long.
Earth Mama is a visceral drama set in the San Francisco Bay Area, depicting the real-life issues of child-rearing and the unfortunate politics that surround those who don’t have a lot of money in their pockets. We watch with permanent tears as 24-year-old mother Gia (Tia Nomor) struggles through a third pregnancy while trying to maintain a relationship with her two young children, who have been forced into foster care.
We recently met with Savannah leavesyoung actor Tia Nomoreand veteran Erica Alexander, who plays a maternal, advisor-like role in Jia’s life. We learned a lot from our insightful group interview, like the inspiration behind such a poignant story and Leif’s intent behind the fantasy elements scattered throughout. Earth Mama.
Turning a parent’s story into a “collective voice”
Although often dreamy feeling Earth Mama — and we’ll get to those almost silent sequences that focus on Gia’s headspace — it’s easy to see that Leaf’s powerful debut feature is emblazoned with real-world inspiration. Even if you’re not a single mother, you can feel Gia navigating a cruel world that refuses to give her a second chance with her family.
“The first draft was kind of a direct reflection on me meeting my sister’s mother for the first time,” Liv told us. “And it really affected me when I was 16. And I basically felt really connected to her and I felt like she was like me in a lot of ways. And so I wrote the first draft, and then I went and did a documentary with a friend of mine. And that documentary was kind of an emotional quest.” And she explained:
I’ve met some people who were going through having their kids in the foster care system, some women who had just given their kids up for adoption and felt a lot of things, physically, while doing it, and also some women who were the result of this kind of situation. And that kind of created the film and expanded it into a kind of collective voice.”
Tia Nomore and Erica Alexander Shine in Earth Mama
For an actor who is completely new to the scene, your first role is automatically a unique experience. But for Tia Nomore’s amazing, thought-provoking performance, it’s safe to say her setup will stand out even if she’s done sexy roles before. Earth Mama.
“The most unique thing about this is the amount of research,” Nomore said. “Savannah would write articles to me, or when we saw each other, she would have prints of me. I think she discovered very early on that I was aware of the way I like to keep information. I had a notebook, and I’d like to go in.” [my character Gia] Well … and [Savanah] He’d be like, “This is a really intense read, but I think it’s important for you to know that it can happen, for this role in particular, just to know that this kind of energy is out there in the world, not too far away from what we’re made of.”
Then there’s Miss Erica Alexander, a veteran household name that moviegoers will recognize from hit projects like Wildflower And Get out. She commented on her real-life story and how she played a pivotal role in preparing her counselor character, Miss Carmen, in Earth MamaMy mother is a social worker and so is my sister. My mother is also an orphan, and so is my father. My mother was adopted from a woman when she was four years old, and she was taken care of by her half-sister after her mother had a stroke.”
And then a rich black woman—I say ‘rich,’ meaning wealthier than the people in her hometown in New Mexico—started taking care of my mother. And then when the half-sister said she came for her and she said, “Listen, you’ve been taking care of my sister, But I want her back,” “Well, you have to pay for all my clothes and food and everything,” and she couldn’t fight so the court gave my mother to her new mother, and she adopted her. Unfortunately, she was a very sick woman, and she tormented my mother for years, literally beating her. It’s not my story. But it was becoming part of my story because you’re part of your mother. My father was also an orphan. I never knew he would reach his peak in this space, and that I would need to know those stories in order to have some kind of sympathy for the characters in the movie.” But I realized very quickly that Miss Carmen comes from my awareness of how she was raised, and certainly how my sister and mother were a social worker.”
Moments of escape and future projects of Gia
Earth Mama is a nice balance between a realistic depiction of a harsh society and more fantasy sequences, in which Jia “escapes” into the woods and feels one with nature. “I think what’s nice is that everyone takes something of their own away from it,” Leaf said regarding those Mother Nature moments.
“But I think there’s one thing that I hope people take away from that we’re in the lineage of black women, or that Gia is in that lineage of black women,” Leif continued. “And she longs to connect with both sides, what’s in front of her and what’s behind her. And sometimes, she wants to break the chain of trauma. And so it’s both an escape and a nightmare. It’s haunting her, but it’s also her escape. And I hope people take that away, knowing that she’s part of it.” of that parentage, and she deals with that too, as a kind of trying to figure out what she’s going to do with her unborn child.”
Besides these “escape” moments, there are extended shots that zoom in eerily on Gia, and the audio often fades out. We kind of get into her headspace at moments like this. “There are so many voices around her that sometimes it’s her thoughts, sometimes it’s just distractions or what’s going on around the world around her,” Liv said. “And so I think that’s part of Gia’s personality… I just felt like it was part of the language.”
Tia Nomore then added more insight into the challenges behind those non-talk scenes. “I couldn’t see the screens or anything,” Nomore said, “so I didn’t really know what you were going to use them for. I knew which ones worked best for me. And most of the time, it was when I was just feeling my feelings.” .
“I knew the cameras were rolling, but I couldn’t go anywhere. So I just had to feel, and I think a lot of those shots are like close-ups where you kind of see it in my eyes, I’m also kind of looking for someone to be like.” , “He told!” Being with others was easier. I think just staying still and letting the feelings run out of me and knowing someone was recording was hard and uncomfortable. But I knew the purpose of it. Like this scene where we were driving for so long in the dark, and I was crying that day because I kept saying to Savannah, “I really miss my baby today. I really wish I was driving home.”
Looking ahead, the trio in the back Earth Mama They have other projects they are definitely excited about. In the fall, there will be a movie called American fantasy “With Jeffrey Wright, Sterling K. Brown and Tracee Ellis Ross,” Alexander said. It’s a comedy, and so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also writing a script series for Audible.”
“I’m finishing my album, which will be my third album of my career,” added Nomore, who is also a music artist. “It’s a very important and vulnerable piece of work. So I’m excited to share that next year.”
And draw attention, Los Angeles residents: Leaf has a project currently up in your neighborhood! “I’m part of a group show at Hauser and Wirth in downtown L.A. It features seven black women artists and their films, including people like Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson and some people that I really respect and love. And so I made this nine-hour short film. Minutes about a retired athlete,” said Liv, a former Olympian. And I’m really excited and proud of that. So that’s going to continue for the next six weeks, along with Earth Mama , which I’m really excited about. I actually am [the short film] Also, which is weird because I don’t think I would normally envision myself in that space. But out of resources, I ended up doing just that. So I’m really excited and nervous for everyone to see it.”
from A24, Earth Mama Hits theaters July 7th.