Film Review: “Mama has a Mustache” and “Mama Bears”


Movie posters from their respective films

“Mama has a Mustache” was directed by Sally Rubin and is a short animated documentary about the way children see gender and family. “Mama Bears” was directed by Daresha Kyi and features different roles in which a strong motherly LGBTQ+ advocate is so powerful for young children.

Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer

Winona’s annual Frozen River Film Festival (FRFF) has gained a reputation for screening films that tackle important cultural topics. One of this year’s duo set of films boldly discusses queer issues through the films “Mama has a Mustache” and “Mama Bears”.

Sally Rubin’s short animated documentary “Mama has a Mustache” breaks down gender through the eyes of children from ages five to ten. Rubin, who is a gender non-conforming filmmaker themselves, turns the camera on their own community to get the perspective of children who grow up with parents who exist outside of the gender binary. What results from this introspection is that these children with queer parents all feel more free to express themselves.

Made through the use of stop motion, clip art and other mixed media, this animated documentary is bursting with creativity. Its combination of humor and sincerity towards this serious topic, makes it incredibly enjoyable for any audience. I also want to note how crucial it is to have kid friendly media addressing queer topics. So many LGBTQ films are primarily for older audiences, limiting the exposure and accessibility of queer figures and characters to children. Seeing this positive representation is incredibly important for queer youth, and this is a film that makes a point to do just that.

“Mama Bears”, directed by Daresha Kyi, shares the powerful story of two Christian moms who fiercely stand up for their LGBTQ children’s rights, and of a Black lesbian woman who learns to come to accept her sexuality along with her Christian faith. All of these women are a part of the growing Facebook group, “Mama Bears”, that offers support, love and acceptance for Christian moms who have queer children. These women are willing to lose their friends and family in order to offer a safer world for their kids.

One of the “Mama Bears”, Sara Cunningham, has a gay son who inspires her to rethink her own upbringing, and become an loving activist in the LGBTQ community. Cunningham spends her time parading at Pride and travels across the country offering “Free Mom Hugs” in queer communities.

Kimberly Shappley, another central “Mama Bear”, has a young trans daughter whose confidence and boldness leads the pair in a journey of activism fighting for several trans issues including the right for her daughter Ester to use the girls bathroom.

The film shines when its focus is on these two mothers whose radical love has changed not only their children’s lives, but also those who their story has inspired. Kyi utilizes moving storytelling in the documentary form to create a film that brings you to tears and restores your hope in humanity.

The Frozen River Film Festival is an incredible opportunity to showcase such a diverse range of voices to be heard. They promote the message that everyone deserves space in the world and their stories deserve to be told. These two moving films have such a beautiful and unique perspective on the world that will certainly change the way it is viewed.