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Moolaadé | Review

Cut Off from Society

Sembene’s shows the combat and the courage against the ritual de habitual.

It’s regarded as a right of passage and an introduction into womanhood. Moolaadé is not about a girl’s first visit from the monthly demon, but instead this is about the savage act of female circumcision. Ousmane Sembene’s simply constructed gem not only probes the afflictions suffered by generations of tribal African women at the hand of Islamic law and patriarchic oppression, but it also adds a degree of humanity to those who are the victims and the victimizers in this inhumane act. Filled with strong moments of confrontation – this takes place in a small Senegal village where a bunch of girls seek refuge from a strong-minded protector Collé Ardo Gallo Sy (Fatoumata Coulibaly) who single-handedly aspires to shelter the youths against the purification practice. With both feet firmly in place and an imposed rope that keeps the spirits on her side – this one brave stand against the mutilations effectively snowballs into a small scale revolution. The narrative includes many power struggles between the sexes, moral fights within the tribe and offers an examination of the traditional barbaric past and the modern future. Sembene, an 80-plus year old filmmaker tackles the subject matter with heart and sympathy – he exposes both sides of the coin and shows the difficult process of evolution. The film really picks up once the storm of oppression hits – a banning of personal radios is a poignant sequence that demonstrates that oppression comes through the lack information. Featured in an untouched village and extremely well edited, Moolaadé moves to a natural, unhurried pace – uplifting without being too overly melodramatic this educational and heart-warming film filled with symbolism is a fine example of national cinema that might come across as amateurish in some eyes – but without the gloss it resonates deeper than most.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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