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An honest and intimate look at the complexities of grief and healing, “Motherland” is about resilience, triumph of the human spirit and the power of unconditional love. It also reminds us of the vastly different ways in which disparate cultures confront deeply felt personal challenges.

Each year over eight million families around the world suffer the loss of a child. In Jennifer Steinman’s moving and inspiring documentary film, a 17-day trip to South Africa transforms the lives of six grieving women from across the US. Unexpectedly and eight thousand miles from home, each finds comfort and healing in a landscape that appears, at first, to offer little more than melancholy.

Prior to their journey, the six intrepid women featured in the film have each suffered the death of a child but otherwise have little in common. And although the anticipation of a long, emotional journey with a group of strangers evokes anxiety, the women all share a desire to make sense of their tragedies and to move forward with their lives...

Debbi works as a paramedic in a rural Northern California town. Her son Garrett was hit by a drunk driver on the side of a highway while waiting for his car to be towed.

Mary Helena, an African-American actress and storyteller from urban Wisconsin, suffered a debilitating stroke less than a year after her son Aaron was killed in a triple-homicide.

Anne is married to an advertising executive in San Francisco and works as a volunteer for a local children’s charity. Her daughter Grace died of suicide at the age of 15.

Kathy, a suburban mom from Santa Rosa, California, works in a hospital emergency room. Her husband is a local police officer. Their son Mike died in a motorcycle accident.

Barbara, a nursing student from the small town of Dixon, California, is struggling with her impending divorce. Her marriage began to unravel after her son Jason died in a head-on collision.

Lauren is a 22-year old student from Oakland, California, and the youngest member of the group. Her older brother, Teveston, was killed by angry gang members who retaliated when he refused to join.

These six remarkable women travel half way around the world where they live with local families and work with African organizations dedicated to improving the lives of children. As they come to know each other, they assist teachers in over-crowded day care centers, lead activities with abused and at-risk teens and help care for physically-challenged youth. The work is meaningful and rewarding and a welcome reprieve from the depression, isolation and stagnation of life at home. In the end, the women share not just their stories and their pain but themselves – with and for each other and even more profoundly, with the children who touch their hearts at every turn.

"Motherland" was the winner of the 2009 Emerging Visions Audience Award at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. Its other awards include the Jury Prize for Best Feature at the 2009 Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 2009 California Independent Film Festival.

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Jennifer Steinman, Director: The idea for the film came from two sources of inspiration. First, I was deeply affected when my dear friend Barbara, who is one of the women in the film, lost her son Jason in a car accident several years ago. I watched her through her many stages of grief, as she had to bear the unimaginable pain of every parent’s worst nightmare. I knew there had to be other mothers out there suffering from similar experiences, and I wanted to find a way to bring them together.

Then, in the summer of 2006, I was reading a book by Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, called “Race against Time.” In his book, he details the devastation occurring throughout Africa today because of the AIDS epidemic and extreme poverty. 

“No one is untouched,” Lewis states. “Everyone has a heartbreaking story to tell. Virtually every country in East and southern Africa is a nation of mourners.” 

I was so deeply moved by the notion of “a nation of mourners,” that I was motivated to want to do something—anything-- to help the world heal. The result is this film project. It is inspired by my desire to address the complexities of the universal experience of grief, and to contribute some healing to our planet at a time when the world needs it most.


JS: (Updated July 23, 2010)  MOTHERLAND was honored to have it's world premiere at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in March 2009, where it won the Audience Award for Emerging Visions.  After a very successful film festival tour (winning several more awards along the way!), we are proud to announce...

MOTHERLAND is distributed in the US by VANGUARD CINEMA! Available on Netflix, iTunes and  everywhere you buy DVDs.

MOTHERLAND is available internationally as well, please contact Tim Sparke at MERCURY MEDIA INTERNATIONAL.

The film is also available for private screenings and for use in the educational market.  Our hope is that it will be utilized as a powerful educational tool-- in grief groups, counseling sessions, conferences, educational institutions, etc— to help people better understand the grieving process.  For more information about obtaining a educational license, to book Director Jennifer Steinman as a speaker for your next event, and/or to plan a film screening near you, please contact:


JS: Our fundraising efforts have been phenomenal (we raised over $200,000!), and we are deeply touched by the generosity of so many people who have contributed to making this film become a reality.  Thank you to all of our donors for your support-- we couldn't have done it without you!  

Please join our FAN PAGE on FACEBOOK, share the link with all your friends and tell them to tell all of their friends!

We are still humbly and gratefully accepting donations (100% tax deductible) and inquiries from investors in order to fund the deferred production costs for the film and our on-going marketing and outreach efforts.  If you would like to contribute, please contact:

In addition to financial contributions, we are looking for PARTNERS to help get Motherland out to the world.  If you know of a person, a company, a foundation, a website, a TV show, a newsletter, a magazine-- or ANYONE-- who might be interested in our project, please help us SPREAD THE WORD!   We want as many people as possible to know about this film, and when it comes to building excitement there is no greater force than friends sharing with friends.  

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Jennifer Steinman, Co-Founder of the film production company, Smush Media, has over 14 years of experience in television and filmmaking. She has established herself professionally as a creative storyteller, with a keen sense of pace and timing and the ability to tap into the heart and emotion of a story.

Jennifer began her career as a staff Editor at CBS, both in New York and San Francisco. Her work has aired nationally on PBS, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, Showtime’s Sundance Channel, The Food Network, and many other television networks. Her corporate clients include Visa, Symantec and The Gap. Her films have been accepted into many major film festivals including San Francisco International, Rotterdam, and Sundance (LIFE, LIBERTY & THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, 2001, and STRANGE CULTURE, 2006). She has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing, and she won a Telly award for “Best Theatrical Trailer, Editing,” for CAR STORIES, 2006.

For the past 10 years, Mira Chang has been directing, producing, and directing photography of non-fiction content for television and film. Her work on theatrically released documentaries (BOYS OF BARAKA, 2005, LEFT OF THE DIAL, 2005) has won numerous awards, and her 2006 film JESUS CAMP (Co-Director of Photography) was a 2007 Academy Award nominee in the Best Documentary category.

Her cinematography is regularly seen on ABC, National Geographic, Bravo, A&E, TLC, VH1, MTV, PBS, and most recently the Sundance Channel (HUMAN BEHAVIOR EXPERIMENTS 2006, THE HILL (SERIES, 2006), and Bravo (TABLOID WARS, SERIES 2006).

Upcoming projects scheduled for release is a feature length documentary SOLD, exposing human trafficking in India, Pakistan and Togo (Director of Photography), and a Diane Sawyer hour for ABC News on the issue of prostitution in the United States. (PRIMETIME: BROTHELS)

Karen Landsberg is our South African “find” of the century! Over the last 9 years, she has become one of the most sought after camera people in South Africa (and one of the only women), working in Television, Documentary Film, and Live Events.

Her work is regularly seen on BBC, SABC, and the South African “Hope Channel.” Recent Documentaries include the cross-cultural film I AM WOMAN (2005), and MAMA AFRIKA (2005), a study of pregnancy and childbirth in South Africa.

She has documented the live events of many mega-superstars, including Billy Joel, Avril Lavigne, The Black Eyed Peas, and REM. In 2003, she worked as a camera woman on the Mandela 46664 Aids Concert, which was Broadcast World-wide on live TV.

Anne Magill has over 17 years of experience fundraising for nonprofit organizations. She has most recently developed a fundraising program at Edgewood Center for Children and Families to support the Adolescent Well-Being program that she and her husband Jim founded in memory of their daughter Grace, who died of suicide in January 2005.

Previously she served Edgewood Center for Children and Families in a variety of other roles including Chairman of the board, Chair of the board’s development committee and underwriting Chair for the agency’s annual fundraising event. She has raised over 3 million dollars for Edgewood over the past 7 years.

Her other fundraising experience includes: Capital Campaign for Katherine Delmar Burke School, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Children’s Garden of California, Little School and Junior League of San Francisco.

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