It seems the subject matter of Moolaadé – female genital mutilation (FGM) – put off some Minicine regulars last month and that’s a shame because it was about much more than that. The film transported us to the everyday kindnesses and minor deceptions of West African village life: the director Ousmane Sembène is Senegalese but it was actually filmed in Burkina Faso. It is an affectionate portrait of village life and shows how culture circumscribes every aspect and how it is determined by the elite men but lived by everybody.
We meet Collé and her fellow wives in their pristine compound as their husband is about to go on a journey. Their morning has been interrupted by four young girls seeking refuge from circumcision with their age mates: they have sought out Collé because she is known to be against the practice – not due to persuasion but because she has experienced two dead babies after childbirth complications caused by FGM. Thus her daughter Amasatou is not circumcised yet is betrothed to Ibrahima and feels under pressure to undergo FGM. We see how women are involved in their own subjugation as there is a stand off between Collé and the circumcisers who dare not cross the moolaadé (magical protection) which she has cast on the compound to protect the girls. They can offer no repost to her reasoning other than it is how things have always been…
The outside world is viewed with suspicion so people are wary of the tinker and former soldier Mercenaire, who supplies credit for bright plastic household goods & flirts with all the women. Though respectful of Ibrahima, who returns from studying in France it is made clear that his new technology is not welcome and that his father is still to be obeyed in everything.
We see how hard it is for good men to stand against the crowd: Collé’s husband is criticised for not controlling her and is eventually goaded into publicly whipping her until she is rescued by the heroism of Mercenaire who alone among the men has the courage to defend what is right. The women’s radios, which offer them some small entertainment, are targeted as symbolic of the intrusion of the outside world together with the men’s fear of them encouraging women’s empowerment and independence so they are ordered to be confiscated, which only spurs the women to further action.
– Oriel Kenny, Minicine member
Cutting the Rose dir. Victoria Lynn – 4.11
Moolaadé (2004) dir. Ousmane Sembène – 4.11