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Homages to the conventional African woman and represents the non-culture specific "modern woman" of today's world.
In 2001, Ousmane Sémebéne was able to construct a film that celebrates women embracing their individual identity and holding the dominant role of power in families and communities. Faat Kine is a character study of an African woman who has endured numerous instances of rebuilding her life after being trampled over physically, emotionally, and financially by men she trusted. From her tribulations, she was able to uncover her distinctive personality and obtain a unique voice. Subsequently, she was able to succeed in her career, family, and friendships. As a film character, Faat Kine homages to the conventional African woman and represents the non- culture specific "modern woman" of today's world.
Feminism may be too unwieldy of a term to use with such certainty in describing the film's protagonist because the word itself is never used in Faat Kine. Faat Kine does not actively think of herself as a feminist, but from the hardships she has endured throughout her life, she embodies one inadvertently. She does not beg for everyone to notice her values because she does not actively seek them.
Faat Kine actually began with a more conservative outlook on life, but during her first pregnancy she began a metamorphosis from a daughter to a woman. It was a slow evolution because one could argue she was willing and eager to settle down with a husband. Everything changed when Djip's father swindled her out of her entire life savings. That betrayal was like a slap in the face that woke her up, which made her begin to seize control things for herself. Control is something Faat Kine has in bundles; she raises her children, manages her mother, runs her gas station, and interacts with the opposite sex on her terms. Independence and control are intertwined for Faat Kine. For example, she rejects the idea of Jean pursuing her at the gas station at the beginning of the film for reasons of retaining the prerogative of controlling her own body.
When Faat Kine does not hold control in the cusp of her hand with a situation that's essential to her, she becomes emotionally erratic, such as when her children try to arrange a date for her with Jean. Faat Kine interprets this as an attempt to undermine the work she has put into being a mother, without the physical assistance or financial support from their fathers, for the entirety of her children's lives. Subsequently, she erupts and berates her them. Rarely are women with as much gall and daring behavior as Faat Kine taken seriously, but here we not only take her seriously, but we root for her as she shocks us. This type of audacity is disclosed when she discharges pepper spray into the eyes of a woman who threatened her because of a man's false accusation.
The theme of feminism begins to take life of its own as it explicitly denounces men and their abusive, cruel behavior. The triumphant flashback to the real beginning of Faat Kine's transformative journey shows the unbridled violence women experience from men, and in Faat Kine's case, her own father. After hearing of his teenage daughter's pregnancy, Faat Kine's father tries to burn her alive for disgracing the family. But an act of love performed by her mothershielding Faat Kine and her unborn child from the fire with her own body emblemizes a victorious message of feminism. Nanny challenging her husband's livid actions is an ultimate act of rebellion, for she is giving the next generation a chance to survive and create a life separated from older traditions. This is quite the revelation considering both characters, Faat Kine and Nanny, began the scene kneeling at the father's feet.
By the time it reaches its climax, Faat Kine categorically criticizes the older generation males by literally shaming the fathers of Faat Kine's children. The entire film was built around and about women, yet the film pinnacles with Faat Kine's son, Djip (representing the younger generation of African men), discrediting the men who duplicitously took advantage of Faat Kine (the older men of Africa who repressed women and change). Faat Kine also darkens the reputations and accomplishments of the fathers when they are confronted with Faat Kine's notable success and wealthy bank account prior to events of the climax.
An idea of "the modern woman" exists within Sémebéne's film. He etches Faat Kine with traits of breaking tradition, and allows her to fasten her own set of morals. Faat Kine is a passionate character study of woman who assigns herself a self-written definition. Abandoned by her father, impregnated with two children, and robbed by a deceptive lover, Faat Kine had no other option but to build her life from the ground up. She views sex more freely than conservative women do, ranks at the top of the echelon of the gas station she manages, and speaks shamelessly to her friends about her sexual desires. (It is quite shocking the middle-aged women have sexual desires.) Faat Kine wants what any other woman wants from life: happiness. These qualities are so fluidly enumerated in Faat Kine's characterization that she not only serves as representation for women of her time and culture but women across the globe in today's world.
Not only does Faat Kine investigate and extol female independence in Africa, but it was ahead of its time in expounding the characteristics of a contemporary woman anywhere in the world. Faat Kine encompasses unambiguous feminist traits, and uses them to establish who she is as a person. The film accentuates female struggles most directly linked to nefarious treatment they received from men in their lives, but more importantly, Faat Kine gives women the chance to prevail over men in their accomplishments. Sémebéne memorializes a tribute to the women who did not receive the credit they deserved, and strives to propel past those ideologies with Faat Kine.
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