As a student in the 1960s, filmmaker Ike Bertels became captivated by an image she saw in a BBC documentary about Mozambique's war for independence: three young members of the Women's Detachment of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) sitting on the grass and cleaning their rifles.
Almost two decades later, in 1984, she tracked down the three women: Monica, Amelia, and Maria, who were now living through the civil war that followed Mozambique's independence. Monica now served as a member of a Central Committee of the ruling FRELIMO party. Maria was in school and taking care of her five children, and Amelia worked as a seamstress. Ten years later, Bertels returned to Mozambique to document these women once again, as they navigated the new society that emerged after the conclusion of the civil war in 1992.
GUERRILLA GRANNIES depicts Bertels' third encounter with these remarkable women, all three now grandmothers in their 60s, and narrates the filmmaker's long friendship with them. Today Mozambique has a growing industrial economy and stable political system. It also ranks among the top 25 countries in the world for women, according to a 2012 World Economic Forum report, thanks largely to the efforts of pioneers like Monica, Amelia, and Maria. Their success in helping transform the county has sapped none of their ambition, and the film reveals their tireless efforts to create a better life for their children and grandchildren.
Ruminating on her decades-long relationship with these three women, Bertels catalogues everything she has learned from them, realizing that they taught her "how to live in this world." The filmmaker's loving portrait of these women shows us the powerful cross-cultural relationships that can develop between a filmmaker and subject over decades of dedicated documentation, and an unsensational side of African life to which the cinema rarely grants us access.
2012 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
2012 DOCKANEMA7 (Maputo, Mozambique)
2012 Netherlands Film Festival
2012 African Diaspora Film Festival, New York
2013 Africa Festival Leuven (Belgium)
2013 Fespaco (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)
2013 Annual Africa World Documentary Film Festival
2013 Crossroads Film Festival (Graz, Austria)
Television Prize, 2013 Avanca Film Festival (Portugal)