In an African village this is the day when six 4-9-year-old girls are to be 'cut' (the act of female genital mutilation) All children know that the operation is horrible torture and sometimes lethal, and all adults know that some cut women can only give birth by Caesarean section. Two of the girls have drowned themselves in the well to escape the operation. The four other girls seek "magical protection" (moolaadé) by a woman (Colle) who seven years before refused to have her daughter circumcised. Moolaadé is indicated by a coloured rope. But no one would dare step over and fetch the children. Moolaadé can only be revoked by Colle herself. Her husband's relatives persuade him to whip her in public into revoking. Opposite groups of women shout to her to revoke or to be steadfast, but no woman interferes. When Colle is at the wedge of fainting, the merchant takes action and stops the maltreatment. Therefore he is hunted out of the village and, when out of sight, murdered.Written by
Max Scharnberg, Stockholm, Sweden
The meaning of the word Moolaadé is magical protection. See more »
In the film one kilogram (1 kg or 2.2 lb) of bread is shown in multiple instances to be equivalent to one (French) baguette. This is a massive over representation of the weight of a baguette, which in reality is typically around 0.25 kg (or approx. 0.5 lb). See more »
One of legendary Senagalese director Ousmane Sembene's defining films. A fascinating study of the clash between pragmatic modern thinking and staunch religious traditionalism in Senegal. The film focuses on the controversial procedure of 'purification', in which young girls are forced to undergo genital mutilation to supposedly make them better, more faithful, wives in the future. When six young girls flee the process, four of them seek refuge with a well-known woman, Collé (Fatoumata Coulibaly), who is viewed with suspicion in the community for her stubborn refusal to adhere to all the societal 'norms'. Collé offers the girls protection (moolaadé), a spell which can only be broken if she herself utters the words which will end the moolaadé. Collé herself had refused to let her daughter be 'purified' and her actions prove to be inflammatory, causing the elders to become increasingly nervy about her failure to conform. As their control mechanism is slowly eroded they lash out and the community takes on alarming animalistic tendencies. Although the film ends in a rather idealistic fashion, Sembene's work is both moving and engaging. His stance on the core debate is clear but the views of the various community members are not so. In this way he is able to explore ideas of male hegemony while simultaneously studying the difficulties faced by the patriarch in striving towards accepted constructions of masculinity. Sembene understands the quirks of this society and his representations of these offer both light relief and food for thought. Ultimately the film swings back to the debate at its core - the battle between old and new. The modern approach is symbolised by the women's radios (and the knowledge acquired from them) and by the chief's French-educated son, who becomes the first to turn his back on the male elders. Religious traditionalism manifests itself through a ruthless and outdated male hegemony and it is clear that Sembene sees feminism as a crucial means by which modernisation can be achieved. His film provides an insight into an under-represented part of the world. It is a beautifully told story which offers a multi-layered yet concise analysis of ongoing issues which are relevant to us all.
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