Tag Archives: Osmane Sembene

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