Irish Film Institute -Moolaade


Director: Ousmane Sembene

Senegal| 2004. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 124 min.

Ousmane Sembene, the Senegalese author and film director, is widely acknowledged as ‘the father of African cinema’. Acclaimed as his masterpiece, Sembene’s most recent film tackles the highly sensitive subject of female circumcision. Set in a small village in West Africa, the story centres on a woman who shelters four little girls seeking her protection (moolaade) after running away from the traditional salinde (‘purification’, or circumcision) ceremony. The woman’s action precipitates a major confrontation within the village community, between women and men, and between progress and tradition. Sembene’s handling of this explosive subject is both perceptive and moving. The heroine, still haunted by the horrors of her own ‘purification’ rites, had already refused to let her third daughter be circumcised, resulting in the young woman being marked socially and pejoratively a ‘bilakoro’, an uncircumcised woman for whom marriage is a near impossibility. Hence the moral and ideological intensity that the film conveys. The narrative is clearly and unambiguously structured around the women’s point of view, which ties in very much with Sembene’s long-standing concern with female empowerment as an essential requirement for the progressive development of African society. However, Sembene avoids being didactic in his handling of the story, and instead calls on all his formidable powers as a filmmaker to produce what surely must be his finest, most awe-inspiring film thus far.

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