The Film

The Other Madisons documents on film the process by which an oral tradition preserves, with exquisite fidelity, an important social record, in spite of, or perhaps in response to, suppression or neglect by exclusion and racism. In this genealogical journey, Bettye Kearse traces her ancestry to Mandy, her family’s first African ancestor enslaved on American soil and who became the property of President James Madison's estate in Virginia, Montpelier.

During the process of making The Other Madisons, the filmmaker, Eduardo Montes-Bradley, relied heavily on Kearse’s homonymous book and her own testimony, while also reaching out to experts on Montpelier’s enslaved community, including historians and archaeologists.

This film brings the family mantra, "Always remember—you’re a Madison. You come from African slaves and a president," to a new level, that of the documentary film experience, and places her family's unique story into the broader historical context within which it developed and into the tumultuous social events of 2020.

This film is an official selection of the Roxbury International Film Festival, "the largest festival dedicated to celebrating films by, for, and about people of color."

Reviews

"A beautiful film...it does put a whole new overlay on the BLM issue...without preaching or any political overtones except emphasizing our shared humanity and how lucky some of us are that our immigrant heritage came from freedom at the outset instead of having to be fought for--bravo!"

John Lundsten, Philanthropist

"In a way, the film dramatizes the impact that the stories of the “Other Madisons” griotte should have on all of us. And Bettye’s closing words, that she and her generation have reconciled the contradiction of descending from “African slaves” and a “president” should stimulate each one of us to go forth, acknowledge our part in social contradictions that have their origin in racial discrimination, make our own reconciliation, and turn to the hard work of helping achieve a more just community wherever we live."

Jeffrey Plank, Scholar-Author

"It's a great story. Bettye Kearse is terrific as [the] central character and the mix of other voices--the "professional" historians and archaeologist give it nice dimension."

Paul Wagner, Oscar and Grammy award-winning filmmaker

"The new documentary by Eduardo Montes-Bradley beautifully illuminates the book, The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family by Bettye Kearse. The film provides jewel-like moments with interviews of Bettye reflecting on her family and her personal journey--images imbued with contrasting light, a metaphor for the complex, difficult, but ultimately inspiring story of the "other" Madisons. The film and book complement each other and help provide a rich visual backdrop for reflecting on the story not only of Bettye's family, but on the story of the founding of our nation. A must read and see!"

Kat Imhoff, Senior Conservation Fellow, the Piedmont Environmental Council