Black Madonna

The short film “Black Madonna,” a recent highlight of NewFilmmakes Los Angeles festival on Black Cinema, came about from a conversation between co-directors Zora Schiltz Rouse and Morgan Jenkins about “the principles of childbearing during unprecedented climate change,” Rouse recalls. 

As they discussed the issue, and shared hundreds of articles, they noticed that while many of them discussed Black women, they didn’t seem to actually quote them. 

“We were like, ‘Where are the Black women? I don’t see any Black women being interviewed,’” Rouse says. “Where are the Black women being questioned about what they want, and their fears around motherhood?

“We decided that we wanted to tell a story that reflected our own experiences, our own narrative.”

The result is “Black Madonna,” an honest portrayal of a Black climate justice activist who discovers that she’s pregnant while living in a deteriorating neighborhood, and the many feelings and questions her pregnancy inspires.

Rouse is the co-founder of Mizo Productions and a veteran of many productions, from films to ads to music videos. She was able to draw on her network to crew “Black Madonna,” she says in an interview with Carolyn McDonald for NFMLA that you can watch here:

Jerkins is a New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist, and former editor at ESPN and New York Magazine. She is based in Harlem.

The film was among those celebrated in February at NFMLA’s annual InFocus: Black Cinema program, spotlighting Black stories and emerging Black talent in front of and behind the camera across two shorts programs and a spectrum of genres, along with the feature documentary “On The Line: The Richard Williams Story” directed by Stuart McClave.

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The day began with InFocus: Black Cinema Shorts I, a program that weaved together nuanced stories of friendship, place, perspective taking, family, loss, and joy. It continued with On The Line and concluded with InFocus: Black Cinema Shorts II, an exploration of connection, community, identity, mental health, climate activism, and motherhood through a range of genres, including movement, comedy, coming of age, sci-fi, experimental, and drama.

NFMLA showcases films by filmmakers of all backgrounds throughout the year in addition to its special InFocus programming, which celebrates diversity, inclusion, and region. All filmmakers are welcome and encouraged to submit their projects which will be considered for all upcoming NFMLA Festivals, regardless of the InFocus programming. 

Main image: A still from “Black Madonna,” written and directed by Morgan Jenkins and directed and produced by Zora Schiltz Rouse.