Wednesday, September 15, 2004


This film was made by the godfather of African Cinema, Ousmane Sembene; one of the first african directors to achieve international notice in 1966. This is his 13th film since 1963. This is the first of his films that I have seen. It is an impressive cry for revolution within the traditionalist confines of tribal Senegral. The authority of the men in the village is nearly absolute, and the status quo is maintained by prevention of the outside world to flow in. When one woman, Collé of the village refuses to have her daughter circumcised, she is dismissed as an eccentric who is ruining her daughters chance for marriage. (NOTE: Female circumcision is practiced to this day in 38 of the 54 african countries, and involves the ghastly practice of basically chopping off the clitoris. It results in many, many deaths of the young girls who undergo the procedure. From my limited exposure on the subject, it is only done because of tradition and to keep the women in line).
When several young girls run away from the ceremony and to Collé, she invokes a ritual of asylum, the Moolaadé for the childrens protection. She butts her head defiantly against the village elders, her husband and her brother-in-law, while getting support of many of the woman in the village.
The film is beautifully articulated revolution through ritual and the sacrifices of a revolutionary woman for her beliefs. It avoids cliché, and generates feelings of outrage against the traditions, sympathy for the woman. The story is told deliberately avoiding melodrama with excellently understated performances from the actors. If you like affecting drama, this is THE not-to-be-missed film for the year.


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