Moolaadé (Senegal/France; 124 min.)

directed by: Ousmane Sembene
starring: Fatoumata Coulibaly; Maimouna Hélène Diarra
Bruce says: "MOOLAADÉ is a tale about female genital mutilation, a triumph of rationality over tradition. For years many cultures in Africa have practiced the ritual of female circumcision. Performed crudely with more attention to ritual than health and safety issues, such practices kill and maim small girls often leaving the survivors scarred for life. This topic has had much international attention due to human rights activism. MOOLAADÉ puts faces on that story.

"The story takes place in a small Muslim village. First we see the mosque which looks like an ice cream sculpture, elongated and soft with rounded, creamy spikes and what looks like chunks of chocolate stuck in the sides at varying angles. The other buildings are adobe rectangles built around dirt courtyards. In the courtyards, sunimpacted, round huts with thatched roofs house chickens. Women clean by sweeping the dry courtyard with straw brooms. When they go to the local market run by an iterant merchant appropriately named Mercenaire, the most common request is for bread and batteries - bread for the table, batteries for the radios which entertain them while their husbands are off hunting and farming. The village leaders are, of course, all male and they do not seem to work at all as they mostly strut around the village. Strange as it seems, this story is not one from a different century or decade, merely a current story from a different culture.

"In the distance a drum sounds. The drum fills the air with a message, not rhythm or music. Six people are missing. Soon four little girls arrive at the home of Collé (the other two drowned themselves in a well in order to escape the cutting ceremony). They ask for her protection – moolaadé - to avoid being taken to the ceremony where they will be cut. They have come to the right place for Collé refused to have her daughter circumcised several years earlier. He daughter is engaged to the son of one of the village leaders. The daughter’s fiancé is in Paris studying and soon arrives wearing a white suit. His luggage includes a huge bundle of European gifts for his family and a TV for himself.

"Collé blocks off the entrance to her courtyard with yellow, red and black yarn. This announces the moolaadé. The yarn is strictly symbolic for people come to visit and step over the yarn. The children, however, cannot be removed from the house, even by their parents. The women of the village who perform the circumcision ritual are not at all pleased. They make a case before the village leaders that word from the outside has poisoned the traditions of the village. Soon radios of all the village wives are banned, collected and burned. It’s FARENHEIT 451. The TV is also banned and the wedding to Collé’s uncircumcised daughter is called off. Mercenaire is killed because village leaders think that he has poisoned the minds of the women who are demanding change.

"Various village factions go to battle, socially and verbally. At the end, Collé triumphs. She has learned from her radio that circumcision is not mandatory in the Muslim religion, contrary to what the village leaders may say. The village leaders are told by the returning son, 'You can no longer silence the radio and TV; they are part of life everywhere.'

"Beautifully filmed and well constructed, MOOLAADÉ is populated with interesting and believable characters although some of them are stereotyped. In telling a tale of triumph over tradition stereotyping seems unavoidable. Those that hold on to the ways of the past in the face of fact, scientific knowledge and modern technology lend themselves to caricature. In the market, the fabrics and accessories such as woven mats are glorious; the colorful pots and bowls, however, are plastic. I found this film fascinating because it presents a world most of us never see. 4.5 cats"

Ivy says: "This film is opening soon in Boston. I got to see it in Toronto and can’t recommend it enough! Osmane Sembene is an amazing filmmaker that should be a household name for film lovers! Check out his first film BLACK GIRL as well to see how he started – equally amazing.

"It is rare to find a feminist filmmaker, male or female, but Sembene is one of the few (and hopefully the proud...)"

Amanda says: "I have been waiting for months to watch it...for all intents I should have loved it. Sadly, I didn't last beyond the 1st 20 minutes. Could have been the screener? Or could have been the movie, but I cannot read white subtitles against daylight scenes. Additionally, if there was any interest in bringing in an audience that was curious, or had an interest in this topic, and wasn't able to catch it in it's one week at Kendall--nothing with the dialogue or performances kept you intrigued enough to stay."