+ high-res version

Watched: 5 February

Ousmane Sembène’s last film, Moolaadé, is set in a small village in Burkina Faso, and its plot is set in motion when a mother named Collé (who is also the second of a man’s three wives) refuses to let her daughter’s genitals be cut, which is sadly a practice that is still commonplace today. (UNICEF estimate around 200 million women in 30 countries have had their genitals mutilated, and as roughly 15-20% of girls die during or after the process it’s entirely possible that tens of millions have perished as a result of this act within the past eighty or ninety years.)

To prevent either her daughter’s death or a lifetime of pain, Collé draws a symbolic rope, or Moolaadé, across the front of her house, which offers a magical protection and stops women elders from entering and taking her daughter away. Though Collé and others are outspoken and challenge the long-held traditions and the views of local (male and female) elders, I wouldn’t describe the film as angry, per se, and more as being one in which you can feel a sense of simmering discontent at the resistance to change. It is concerned with so-called ‘green’ Africa and the general refusal to accept or listen to ideas, news etc. that come from the wider world, with radios and television sets in particular featuring as symbols of the repression of speech. (By the end a stack of burning radios is a permanent fixture in front of the village’s striking clay mosque, while a TV further exasperates an already-strained relationship between a father and a son.) It’s a beautifully-shot film with a strong moral message, and the various hierarchies that exist within Collé’s house and village are clearly set out for viewers who might not be familiar with village life in Burkina Faso. (***½)