Tag Archives: Film

Review: Moolaadé by Osmane Sembène

29 Oct

Moolaadé,  Senegalese director Osmane Sembène’s last film, tells the story of Collé and her plight to protect others, in the small village of Burkina Faso, from female genital mutilation (FGM). The starting point comes from four girls who seek refugee with Collé and ask for protection from their impending ‘purification’ (circumcision) ceremony. After losing two daughters during childbirth due to her own aggressive circumcision, Collé becomes an advocate for these children and vocally stands up against FGM in the community.

By using FGM as the central issue in Moolaadé, Sembène opens the gate, not only to issues such as perseverance and the power of the community, but also to gender stereotypes and how their social constructs bear no relevance to the strength of individual character. The men of the village only inherit their power and are often portrayed as ineffectual and ignorant in their actions. However, the women, and more specifically Collé, have the passion and conviction to stand up for what they believe in despite the often violent consequences.

Sembène skilfully portrays village life with warmth through his colourful cinematography and flashes of humour. He casts a light on how religion can be wrongly used as a tool to manipulate the women into submitting to obsolete traditions, such as FGM. The conflict between traditional values and the influence of modern ideas is also evident in the film. While the men desperately cling onto the old values and therefore their power, the modern ideas, represented by the presence of the radio and television, point to the modern age and a shift towards more forward thinking women.

It would have been an amateur, but tempting, choice to graphically portray the horrors of FGM in Moolaadé but Sembène, in his experience and wisdom, is more subtle than this.  His suggestive camera shots and the power of the unsaid leaves more of a lasting impression than any invasive glimpse into the actual procedure would. A good example of this is the elusive children (who the viewers never see) who throw themselves down a well for fear of having to undergo the circumcision. We are invited to contemplate the horrific nature of FGM and how its possibility prompts two children to kill themselves in order to avoid it. Continue reading

Film Review: All White in Barking

12 Oct

Director and writer, Marc Issacs, explores the growing levels of contention for the increase of immigrants in Britain. Using Barking, a town with one of the highest levels of immigration and a large BNP following, as his location, Issacs explores the multifaceted attitudes surrounding race and immigration in 21st century Britain.

Issacs portrays his characters with startling honesty and originality. Far from the stock BNP fanatics we have become accustomed to seeing in the media, Issacs’ approach is far more clever than that. His subjects are engaging people dealing with the same issues and living the same lives as everybody else. We are presented with three-dimensional, and sometimes contradictory, characters such as the Dave, a BNP activist, with a mixed race grandson who he openly shows love and affection for. Or Sue, who despite her prejudices (which are later challenged) against ‘Africans’, instantly becomes more accessible when mourns over the grave of her son. Through this, we are able to glimpse at the complexity of human nature and the unfounded roots of people’s pre-conceptions.

Issacs explores the concept of ‘otherness’ and the ambiguous and blurry grey lines in which people’s prejudices lie. Dave will happily defend the Italian residents in the area whilst airing unfounded suspicion over the unsuspecting ‘African’ lady passing by on the street. Sue has no qualms about her white Albanian neighbours whilst bringing out tired stereotypical clichés about African culture and her Nigerian neighbours.

What is clear is that these characters are not fundamentally racist, but their attitudes are based on fear of the ‘other’ and an anxiety that a different way of life will somehow dilute their own. Continue reading