Wednesday, January 04, 2006
From the Rotten Tomatoes website:
"African cinema's founding father, 81-year-old Ousmane Sembene, continues to be its most fiery, provocative spirit. Extending the strong feminist consciousness that marked his previous triumph Faat Kiné …Moolaadé is a rousing polemic directed against the still common African practice of female circumcision. The action is set in a small African village, where four young girls facing ritual "purification" flee to the household of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a strong-willed woman who has managed to shield her own teenage daughter from mutilation.
Collé invokes the time-honored custom of moolaadé (sanctuary) to protect the fugitives, and tension mounts as the ensuing stand-off pits Collé against village traditionalists (both male and female) and endangers the prospective marriage of her daughter to the heir-apparent to the tribal throne."
Moolaade is ostensibly about female genital mutilation (AKA FGM or circumcision), but on a higher level it is also about tradition vs. progress. More than a simple story, it is a bold political statement in favor of modern ideas (especially in regards to the role of women in society). NOW, for those who would assume this is an intense, unsettling film- you’re only half right. Yes, the topic is very serious, there are aspects about the film that are disturbing, and it does include a few upsetting scenes, but overall this is a really enjoyable film to watch, with numerous likable characters (and some really hateful ones, too). It is full of vibrant images of village life, with the sights and sounds of children playing and friends chatting over the simple acts of daily life. It is an excellent film to expose the audience to both the joys and the problems faced in Africa today.
One aspect of the film that is difficult to understand from the Western point of view is that, within the film and in reality, it is occasionally women themselves that support the practice of FGM, as it is considered a major rite of womanhood. To NOT have this done is to be considered a child or an untouchable. Now, to be sure, this reasoning is entirely wrong. However, in the cultural context of some of these societies, it is seen as a necessary practice to allow a girl to become a woman. Now, this film features a cast of women who are rightfully rejecting this line of reasoning, which in the film is supposedly based on Islamic teaching (which, as the film points out, actually does NOT advocate the practice). But the female elders of the village, along with the men, are hard-line traditionalists on this subject and some of its most vocal advocates. Thus the film is a very interesting- and enjoyable- study in cultural clash.