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Once my Mother is a penetrating and exquisitely constructed exploration of the intersection between motherhood, memory, trauma and identity through the lens of an immigrant experience. Moving between past and present, Australia and Eastern Europe, the filmmaker’s inner conflicts and search for her own identity are a fascinating counterweight to her mother’s earlier struggle to survive some of the key historical forces that shaped the 20th century before starting a new life in Australia.
Archival footage, stills and dramatic recreations are used to evocatively interleave the journeys of mother and daughter into a compelling narrative. By turns intimately confessional and deft in its historical contextualisation, the filmmaker’s voice beautifully elevates this personal and heartbreaking account into an exploration of the inevitable cultural gaps that open up between immigrants and the generations that follow them. Ultimately, this script shows how the immigrant experience can spotlight, with heightened intensity, many of the issues that make up the individual stories in our society as a whole — in short, how the most extraordinary experiences serve to hold up a mirror for us all.