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Veteran Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene is rarely mentioned without ‘the father of African film’ being uttered in the next breath. It’s a patriarchal label for a director who often puts women at the heart of his films.  Here, he tackles the controversy of female circumcision in a passionate drama set in a rural village in Burkina Faso. When four little girls flee a purification ceremony and ‘the cut’, they take refuge with Collé (Fatoumata Coulibaly), a woman who refused to have her own daughter circumcised.  She casts a mystical protection (the Moolaadé of the title) and a standoff follows. On one side is Collé, and on the other is the Salidana, a group of women cloaked in red robes who perform the age-old circumcision rites. At first the men of the village dismiss the dispute as a minor domestic irritation. But before long the crisis intensifies, and, concerned that their wives are rebelling, they confiscate their radios and burn them in front of the mosque. Sembene’s camera often strays back to this humming bonfire, a neat metaphor for the suppression of the women by their husbands. Sembene makes films about Africa for Africans and ‘Moolaadé’ is undoubtedly a plea to the 38 of the 54 countries in the African Union that still practise female circumcision. But it is also a warm-hearted and wryly observed take on village life. This is an impassioned and uplifting film in which brightly coloured plastic bowls, rutting goats and gossiping women all vie for attention.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday June 3 2005
Duration: 124 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ousmane Sembene
Screenwriter: Ousmane Sembene
Cast: Fatoumata Coulibaly
Salimata Traoré
Aminata Dao
Dominique Zeïda
Hélène Diarra
Mah Compaoré

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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Apart from the greater issues raised about female circumcision, (the perceived necessity perpetuated by women anxious that their daughter can marry, even in the face of the evidence that childbirth becomes even more dangerous, not too mention the infection and the politics of female suppression,) one of the chief delights of this film is the privilege of spending time in this village in Burkina Faso, seeing inside the houses and beginning to understand the dynamics of a village such as this. Seeing the simplicity of the daily lives unchanged, but the desire for change building with each memory of pain and death. A beautiful film, perhaps a bit wooden at times, but transcending its shortcomings.