Is Momma Movie Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Facebook/MOMMA - short feature

Directed by Nacho Arenas, ‘Momma’ is a story of poverty, neglect, abandonment, and survival. The 2018 short film brilliantly showcases the life of a 9-year-old young boy named Darius (Maceo Smedley) as he finds himself living alone in a trailer park in Arizona. When his mother disappears unexpectedly, he is forced to navigate himself through this challenging situation and go on about his daily routine.

Darius brushes his teeth, goes grocery shopping, cooks, attends school, and performs other tasks while being under the fear that he will be separated from his mother. It’s the story we have heard hundreds and thousands of times of children who are neglected and forced to grow up early. But is this heartwrenching tale real? Is ‘Momma’ based on a true story? Let’s explore whether this short film is rooted in reality.

Is Momma a True Story?

Yes, ‘Momma’ is inspired by a true story. In an interview with the American Cinematographer, Alexandre d’Audiffret, cinematographer of the movie, confirmed the same. Although he nor the director have made any statements about the inspiration from which they based their story, such instances are not unheard of in daily life. The tragic story of Travis Butler is one such story that bears a lot of resemblance to ‘Momma.’ On November 3, 1999, Travis, a 9-year-old boy went on about his regular day while his mother’s dead body lay cold on the living room floor. Fearful of being sent to an orphanage, for 33 days, he attended school, went grocery shopping, and even forged his mother’s signature.

It is possible that the creators referred to this story or others like this to create the movie’s lifelike narrative. There is an artful contrast between the young boy’s controlled world inside the trailer and the chaotic outside world. The film doesn’t have any extensive dialogues; instead, the story is told through the actions of young Darius, which showcases the power of visual storytelling. Maceo Smedley has done a phenomenal job with his character. He effortlessly draws the viewers into the world and emotions Darius is feelings, despite his limited spoken lines. Moreover, the narrative is quite impactful, thanks to the cinematography and its distinct visual treatment of the outside world and the trailer’s inside.

‘Momma’ has also had an undeniable and profound impact on its audience with the way it portrays the struggles of the young boy and its emotional depth and intensity. Without his mother, Darius is forced to perform the responsibilities of an adult, giving the viewers an opportunity to take a look into the societal issues and resonate with the emotions the film is trying to convey. The core of this short film is resilience, as Darius is determined to go through his daily life in the best way he knows how to. From brushing his teeth to grocery shopping, everything he does is a testament to the human capacity to overcome adversity.

Amidst the challenging circumstances Darius is facing, he finds the strength within himself to try. The film is an accurate representation of how some children are forced to grow up quickly and bear burdens that are beyond their years and how survival instinct, even in young people, can result in remarkable feats of courage. The title of the film suggests the presence of a maternal figure, but it is the absence of Darius’ mother that gives complexity to this story. Nachos Arenas made a deliberate choice to withhold the information about Darius’ mother’s whereabouts, which adds a sense of tension and mystery to the movie.

While facing insurmountable challenges, Darius’ hope of reuniting with his mother never wavers. ‘Momma’ skillfully captures the journey of a young boy who is trying to survive against the challenges of poverty and neglect. Even though the specific events of the film are fictionalized, it draws inspiration from reality. Through its relatable themes, emotional performances, and visual storytelling, it leaves a lasting impact on its viewers, prompting them to contemplate the hardships people face and the strength that can be found within adversity.

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