The tender short documentary The Heart Still Hums (2020) follows five new and expectant mothers in Sacramento, California as they endeavour to navigate new motherhood while facing formidable hardships. Working with the dedicated women at two local charity organisations, they set out to break the cycles of addiction, poverty and neglect that have affected them, often from birth. While each woman’s story is unique – one grapples with a partner behind bars, another was sexually exploited as a teen, and another gave her baby up for adoption – they share in a heartfelt desire to give their children the best life possible.
Inspired by the British American director Savanah Leaf’s adopted sister Corinna, who tested positive for methamphetamine in the hospital after being born, the film explores the extraordinary force of maternal instinct even amid powerful, persistent struggle. Leaf and her co-director, the Canadian filmmaker and actress Taylor Russell, frame their work around the difficult decisions these women face – especially in the absence of a robust social safety net – as well as the many forms unconditional love can take. The theme of care is echoed in the filmmaking itself, which, rendered in expressive black and white, captures these stories with warmth and compassion.
Directors: Savanah Leaf, Taylor Russell