Big Mama is a 2000 short documentary film by American Tracy Seretean. It chronicles the struggle of 89-year-old Viola Dees (1908-2000) and her fight to retain custody of her grandson. It illustrates many of the difficulties facing an increasing number of the grandparents who are raising their grandchildren in the United States today, because of family crises related to drugs and prison. It was shown on HBO and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject.


The film follows 18 months in the life of Viola Dees (89 years old) as she tries to persuade Los Angeles authorities that she can care for her grandson, 9-year-old Walter. Born to a drug-addicted mother, Walter was put into foster care. Dees gained his release to her care when he was age four. By then he was very disturbed, traumatized by the early death of his father and the disappearance of his mother. But he appeared bright and sweetly loving to his grandmother.