Irene Izquierdo Delgado
Comm 137 Spring 2016
A Way of Life is a film made by the British film director Amma Asante in 2004 and treats the problems of Leigh-Anne, a teenage mother living with the fear that they will take her baby away because of money and other problems. Down in the Delta is a film made by the American activist, writer and director Maya Angelou in 1998 and goes about how “together this sister and brother gently and methodically heal the wounded spirit of a Chicago inner-city household on the verge of disintegration, and in the process save their proud family line from possible extinction”
Both films, A Way of Life and Down in the Delta are really similar but at the same time really different. They both treat the problem of low-class families with money related issues. But, considering, for example, the background and how they end, they are really different.
One of the main parallelisms is that, in both films, the problems are partly represented in the baby, even though not the same ones. In A Way of Life, all the problems turn around the baby -how she all the big problems turn around her baby being taken away from her-, while in Down in the Delta, the baby being autistic is one of all the problems that the mother has, but the baby also represents, that, while the movie is happening, how the things are getting better, for example in how suddenly she says her first words.
Also, the representation of the place where they live says a lot of the representation of the families. Both live in a low class part of the city, and when they say where they live people don’t like it. In both of the places they are guys that mess everything and are represented as the ‘bad ones’.
One of the main differences is the difference in the course of the film and the ending. While A Way of Life stays getting worse and worse, Down in the Delta is totally the opposite, it just gets better, the family begins being closer, they save Nathan and they stay as a family, not as in A Way of Life, where they end up separating when they take Rebecca away from her mother. At the end, maybe Amma Asante’s one is more realistic, because, as some people say “in real life there are no happy endings”.
Another difference is that, while in Maya Angelou’s film the family is composed of black people, in Amma Asante’s film, they are not black. “I didn’t want to create an idea of ‘those good people from abroad, they know how to bring up their kids,’ she explains. “I wanted to say, it’s all of us. This affects everyone.”, Amma Asante stated on the family not being black, because problems can be the same regardless of the race. “It’s about using verbal violence. It’s about not having a voice that contributes to the world you live in that creates this kind of feeling.”
Another difference are the problems that appear in the films, while in A Way of Life, the problems are more “superficial”, like money and violence, but way more brutal, in the sense that, for example, the film ends and begins with a brutal killing that is even hard to look at, while in Down In The Delta, apart from treating money, they also treat on Alzheimer’s Disease and autism and how the family copes with the two perilous circumstances. Also they treat the problem of alcoholism and they show how people can get out of it, in this case, having the family as a support.
Finally, another difference is the way family is represented in both films. In A Way of Life, family is represented as something more superficial, because, even if the girls cares about her child, at one point she is too busy with other stuff to be watching her and other of her friends take her, and at the end they take her child from her. On the contrary, in Down in the Delta, family values are way deeper: “If the term ”family values” has a taint of right-wing intolerance nowadays, the movie reminds you of what those values, shorn of political ideology, really mean in terms of caring, self-sacrifice and the nurturing of tradition through the honoring of one’s ancestors”.
When considering the politics of race, gender and class that are clearly shown in these films, regarding that both protagonists are females of lower class families, and one of them is black, the filmmakers, Amma Asante and Maya Angelou, are trying to state that women are stronger that what they are normally represented as in films, and that they are not given the opportunity and the visibility that they need in order to get the people think a different way.
So, regarding these two films, even though I didn’t enjoyed watching A Way of Life, maybe because for me was harder to understand due to the English accent of the actors, and that I loved Down in the Delta, because I think is a really strong movie, I think they are both good films made by women that really knew what they wanted to represent in them.
A Way of Life. Dir. Amma Asante. united Kingdom, 2004. UCSD E-Reserves. Web. 14 May 2016.
Down in the Delta. Dir. Maya Angelou. United States, 1998.UCSD E-Reserves. Web. 15 May 2016.
Glasper, Janyce Denise. “Revisiting ‘Down In The Delta,’ Maya Angelou’s Only Feature Film.” Bitch Flicks. 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 June 2016.http://www.btchflcks.com/2013/08/revisiting-down-in-the-delta-maya-angelous-only-feature-film.html#.V1T2z5MrJE4.
 Holden, Stephen. “FILM REVIEW; The Healing Power of a Delta Family’s Roots.”NY Times. 25 Dec. 1998. Web. 02 June 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A01E5DA1E3CF936A15751C1A96E958260
 Asante, Amma. “The Making of ‘A Way of Life’. Multi-Cultural Britain And Race“www.ammaasante.com, n.d. Web. 01 June 2016. http://www.ammaasante.com/a-way-of-life/a-way-of-life-the-making-of
Featured Image Photo Credit: IMDb / moviepostershop.com