SXSW 2022 – ‘MAMA BEARS’ to have World Premiere in the Documentary Feature Competition




Spread across the country but connected through private Facebook groups, over 30,000 conservative, Christian mothers call themselves “mama bears” because of how ferociously they fight for the civil rights of their children and the entire LGBTQ+ community.

MAMA BEARS explores the journeys of two mama bears and a young lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance exemplifies why the mama bears movement is vitally important. Directed by Daresha Kyi. Produced by Laura Tatham and Daresha Kyi.


MAMA BEARS is an intimate, thought-provoking exploration of the journeys taken by Sara Cunningham and Kimberly Shappley, two “mama bears”—conservative, Christian mothers whose profound love for their LGBTQ+ children has turned them into fierce advocates for the entire queer community—and Tammi Terrell Morris, a young African American lesbian whose struggle for self-acceptance perfectly exemplifies why the mama bears are so vitally important. MAMA BEARS is the story of women who have allowed nearly every aspect of their lives to be completely reshaped by love. Although they may have grown up as fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, mama bears are willing to risk losing friends, family, and faith communities to keep their children safe—even if it challenges their belief systems and rips their worlds apart.

Once Kimberly accepted her transgender daughter, Kai, she quickly transformed from a Tea Party Republican to an award-winning “LGBTQ Activist of the Year” as she joined forces with the ACLU and Equality Texas to battle the anti-trans bathroom bill that would prevent her child from using the girls’ bathroom in their small Texas hometown. Sara went from repeatedly forcing her gay son, Parker, to deny his sexuality to not only embracing him, but founding Free Mom Hugs, a national movement of mothers offering love, acceptance, and hugs to the LGBTQ+ community. With the support of the mama bears, founded by Liz Dyer, Tammi—who knew she was gay as a little girl—went from marrying a man to “earn the promise of heaven” to learning to live her truth as a proud lesbian.

Shot in a poetic, deeply intimate style, MAMA BEARS uses social media posts, home movies, photographs, personal journals, blogs, interviews, and cinema verité footage to explore the complex intersections of politics, religion, faith, and true, unconditional love.

Sunday, March 13 at 3:00 PM – Alamo Lamar E
Filmmakers and Film Participants In-Person for Q&A

Monday, March 14 at 9:00 AM – Online Screening (Available for 48 hours)

Monday, March 14 at 4:00 PM – Violet Crown Cinema 2
Monday, March 14 at 4:30 PM – Violet Crown Cinema 4
Filmmakers and Film Participants In-Person for Q&A’s

Friday, March 18 at 12:30 PM – Alamo Lamar A
Filmmakers and Film Participants In-Person for Q&A


“As a queer, politically progressive African American woman, I never imagined I’d have much in common with conservative, white, Christian women. The stances many took on social issues near and dear to my heart were often anathema to me and, to be honest, I considered such women my political adversaries — until I learned about the mama bears. In the face of religious, familial, and social judgment and condemnation, they opt to do the hard, often painful work of learning to view the world through fresh eyes. It’s an amazing, heroic journey into the depths of the “dark night of the soul.” And when they emerge into the light, many become fierce warriors who fight tooth and nail for the rights of the very communities they once abhorred. It is my deepest hope that MAMA BEARS will inspire viewers to greater acceptance through the examples set by these humble but powerful women and their all-consuming, soul shaking LOVE.”  
– Daresha Kyi, February 2022

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