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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
By total coincidence, I found myself at the Japan premiere of this intriguing film. I had no idea what it was going to be about, so it was fascinating to watch unfold. But, unlike most of the reviewers I have read so far, I did not think of it as an "African" film. I have seen the dynamics present in this film played out in many cultures and religions around the world, including the "West".
Meaningless tradition in the face of humanity is a universal theme and this film sends the message clearly home. Anybody who watches this film and smugly thanks their lucky stars that they weren't born in such a barbaric culture, has totally missed the point. They may even be part of the problem in their own culture, though unwittingly, as that is exactly how tradition works.
But enough about the message of the film. Even with the heavy subject matter at hand, the film takes us through the leisurely- paced life in an anonymous sub-saharan village, and we get treated to many of the joys and even the humor of their daily life as well. I believe the director would like to say that village life, and even many traditions, are not inherently good or bad; in fact many will probably feel even some envy of the idyllic village and its rich culture. This, however, also happens to be the backdrop of a ritual whose meaning is long forgotten, not to mention excessively cruel. And cities are plenty filled with cruelty of different types.
The fact that the director is male makes the impact of the film all so much stronger, as he shows no sympathy to men in general, and sees the weakness of the female role in African culture (which is just an extreme picture of sexual discrimination everywhere; and ironically men are always giving lip service to women). Thus the general shortage of strong men in the story may be pointed out as one of the film's weaknesses. On the other hand, the women are all top-rate actresses and their roles are realistic, and the near absence of character clichés (among major characters) is almost stunning.
The story is simply told, and many may think it is all too painfully obvious, but I think it is a work to observe on multiple levels: e.g., when the story seems not to be moving ahead we get a chance to learn about village life (albeit not unrelated to the overall work), or we get generous helpings of the character development of the three wives. Subtle interactions among villagers may bore some, but I found them fascinating. It's not made like some Hollywood movie, and thank God for that.
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