Patrice Mallard's Mute Love takes elements of Daughters of the Dust -- including actress Barbara O -- and infuses them into an absolutely contemporary story about three generations of African-American women negotiating broken bonds and old wounds.

Six-year-old Lisa, the wise child narrating this story, is meeting Sweet Mama, her stern southern grandmother, for the first time in the wake of her young mother's HIV diagnosis. Nicole Parker (Boogie Nights, Spark) plays the 23-year-old Mavis, who Sweet Mama (O) threw out at 17 in a desperate effort to shock her into flying straight. Like Sweet Mama before her, Mavis has raised Lisa without benefit of a father but is now returning home to find a place for her daughter.

"Mothers and daughters share the most intimate of relationships without necessarily knowing a thing about each other," says Mallard. "Lisa's the strongest of these three and the only one to question that."

While Mavis' dreams provide a mystical element to the film, Mallard found a real angel in Girls Town director Jim McKay, who rescued the cash-strapped film from the lab last year after seeing a trailer; he recently committed to securing finishing funds in an executive producer role.

Mallard, now 32, credits African-American documentarian Austin Allen with mentoring her initial forays into film as a returning student in a self-designed program at Cleveland State. She went on to make two shorts, Mother Tongue and The Violinist, in '94 as part of a year-long production workshop at Third World Newsreel. Since then, she's worked as programming manager for Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), overseeing production and scheduling for the borough's four cable access stations. That job allowed her to bankroll the initial cash outlay for Love's six-figure cost with credit cards.

Principal photography on the 16mm Love took the filmmakers from Brooklyn to rural Callicoon, a New York hamlet on the Delaware River. McKay also rescued the filmmakers from an attempt to cut Love by themselves on MNN's three-quarter-inch system and since April they've been working on the AVID with editor Rodney Evans, whose credits as an assistant include Gummo, I Like It Like That, and First Love, Last Rites. Mallard hopes to get California-based African-American folk musician Ben Harper to provide music and says Love should be done around the New Year; all rights are available.

Cast: Teja Frank, Barbara O, Nicole Parker, Joy Beth Nadella, Otto Sanchez, Sonya Rodriguez, Rebecca Williams. Crew: Producers, Patrice Mallard, Dorothy Thigpen, Jim McKay; Associate Producer, Latrice Dixon; Screenwriter/Director, Mallard; Cinematographer, Thigpen; Sound, Rebecca Williams; Editor, Rodney Evans. Contact: Patrice Mallard, She Said Filmworks, 493 Park Place, #1R, Brooklyn, NY 11238. Tel: (718) 398-8338, Fax: (212) 757-1603.

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