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Moolaade (Ousmane Sembene)


Moolaade (Ousmane Sembene)
New Yorker Films

When I first heard of female mutilation, I honestly couldn’t believe they would do this to a little girl. The thought of the process more than makes one cringe in imaginable pain.

Thankfully, this long standing tradition is beginning to finally fading away as new generations of both women and men, and the rest of the world, become more aware that this form of torture has little to do with religion, but is in fact another tool used to control women and their bodies.

In the movie “Moolaade” it is the 81-year-old director, Ousmane Sembene, who brings us this story of a heroine who fights to end the madness once and for all.

Instead of reading an article in a magazine we get to see what actually takes place in a given village in Africa, the dynamics of husband and multiple wives, and how their small society’s decisions impact all their fates. Elders rule the younger, even if the younger may be a husband and father in his 40’s who has to obey the decisions of his older brother.

We have seen a number of examples in cinema where one person can impact an entire village or save thousands from murder, and in Moolaade, this character is Colle Ardo Gallo Sy, a brave mother who kept her own daughter from being “cut” after she lost two of her own children in childbirth because of her “purification.” When four girls run away from the ritual they seek refuge from Colle, knowing she was the first to refuse the process. Colle has no choice but to protect them at all costs, including her own physical harm. She has the spell of Moolaade on her side, which will cause suffering to anyone who crosses her path.

The harder Colle fights back and the more they try to bring her down, the faster the ties of tradition begin to unravel and the elders start to loose the battle. Other influences from the world outside their village also play a part in educating and expanding their own individual possibilities, like marrying a woman who has not be “purified” – a bilakoro.

It is no wonder this movie won a Cannes Film Festival award last year. It not only enlightens us all on what seems to be a long and dark secret, but also shows us how women are uniting their power to keep and protect their young girls from experiencing the same fate.


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