The final film from African cinema's founding father, Ousmane Sembene, MOOLAADE is a potent polemic directed against the still-common practice of female circumcision. Though the subject matter may seem weighty, this buoyan... more »t film is anything but - Sembene places the action amid a colorful, vibrant tapestry of village life, employing an imaginative array of emblematic metaphors, mythic overtones, and spirited songs. MOOLAADE reinforces the strong feminist consciousness that marked his earlier classics FAAT KINE, BLACK GIRL, and CEDDO. In a small village, four young girls facing ritual 'purification' flee to the household of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a strong-willed woman who has managed to shield her own teenage daughter from mutilation. Collé invokes the time-honored custom of moolaadé (sanctuary) to protect the fugitives. Tension mounts as the ensuing stand-off pits Collé against village traditionalists (both male and female) endangering her daughter's prospective marriage to the heir-apparent to the tribal throne.
A sharp critic of the internal problems of modern Africa, but also a passionate advocate of African pride and autonomy, Sembene's fiery spirit will live on beyond the stand-up-and-cheer finale.
Voted Best Foreign Film of the Year by the National Society of Film Critics and the following publications all selected MOOLAADE as One of the Ten Best Films of the Year: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, Boston Globe, LA Weekly, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, The Village Voice, Houston Chronicle.
DVD Details: Senegal, 2004, 124 minutes, Color, Region 1, NTSC, Widescreen presentation: Enhanced for 16x9 TVs/Letterboxed for 4x3, Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0, In Jula (a dialect of Bambara) and French with optional English subtitles; scene selections. Special Features: A 2-disc set; Featurette: Making of MOOLAADE; Sembene: Portrait of a Filmmaker; footage from the film's African premiere in Burkina Faso; interviews with director Ousmane Sembene and three actresses; interviews with activists in Burkina Faso who speak about female genital mutilation (FGM); promotional film for FORWARD, a U.K. NGO leading the fight against FGM; theatrical trailer; and a 16-page booklet.« less
A gorgeously filmed reflection on the power of tradition to
Nathan Andersen | Florida | 12/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is often assumed that traditional, tribal ways of life are incapable of change, unable to respond and adapt both to external pressures and internal development. In this extraordinary film, Ousmane Sembene, one of the great masters of African cinema, illustrates ways in which tribal law is responsive to and can address on its own terms the wrongs that some traditional practices can inflict upon its members.
Three young girls, afraid to take part in the traditional ritual of female castration (or female genital mutilation, to call a spade a spade), go to an older woman in the tribe and request her protection, or Moolade, a tradition that is recognized and honored by the tribe. She agrees, and places ritual barriers at the entrance of her home to keep out those who insist that the children must comply, at least until the matter can be resolved. The conflicts that ensue, and the way in which these conflicts come to be resolved, shows Sembene's humanist respect for the traditions of Africa, and his rejection of the colonialist assumption that fairness requires the rejection of traditional life in favor of some allegedly universal principles of ethics. The individuals who take part in these conflicts are not without their flaws and can be very stubborn, but the ways of life they represent remain vital and rich and worthy and cannot simply be rejected because they include practices that ought to be abandoned. (Some of "our" practices -- however far one might think the "us" extends -- ought also to be abandoned. And "we" also can be stubborn and flawed. Sembene's is a deeply humanist portrait of a vital culture, flaws and all.)
As with all of Sembene's films, Moolade is beautifully shot and portrays rich and vibrant characters, especially the female characters, extending the feminist consciousness employed in earlier films like the wonderful Faat-Kine. The film language he employs owes as much to traditions of African storytelling and theater as it does to American style filmmaking, which makes Sembene's films a revelation of both simplicity and eloquence. Both a powerful critique of the still common African practice of female circumcision and a compellingly humanist depiction of traditional African village life, Moolade would be a very nice introduction to the work of this highly respected master filmmaker, who is nevertheless regrettably largely unknown in the United States."
Important, Intriguing film
R. Gawlitta | Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA | 03/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The late Ousmane Sembene's last film continued his effort to make the public aware of the African "condition", from a respectful, first-hand sensibiity. The subject of female genital mutilation (FGM) has rarely been addressed, and it's important for people to realize that the practice is still a reality. It's a cultural tradition, that really has no basis in religion, but rather in the male society that first suggested it, before the time of Christ (hence, Islam wasn't even around). My first exposure to this controversy was back in the early '90's, from an article in Reader's Digest, written by a world-famous fashion model who had undergone this barbaric practice. Her explanation was that women are not allowed to experience sexual pleasure, and she was led to believe this was dictated by God. Her suffering after the procedure was heartbreaking, and I've never forgotten her tragic, very well-written essay. "Moolaade" is important, on many levels. Previous reviewers have covered a lot, but it wasn't mentioned that, at the end, the women rose up, and the heir-apparent to the village leadership ultimately told his father that he would choose his own wife. It's about changing traditions, individuality, dignity and self-respect. Sembene's use of color, and a dash of humor here and there, make this powerful (though unpleasant) theme easier to digest. The 2-disc DVD is as good as they come, rife with extras about the filming, interviews with Mr. Sembene, and terrific insight into the efforts to eliminate the unnecessary practice of FGM. There are always articles and films about atrocities happening throughout the world; it's often overwhelming. With his small, important film, Sembene has used his multi-talent abilities to present a riveting wake-up call to just another such atrocity, one that, with even an ounce of education, is quite obviously dangerous, unnecessary, and preventable. ALSO: Aside from Ebert's thumb-up, this was on 16 Top-10 lists in '04. Worthy film!"
Long Awaited - Did Not Disappoint
IAutry | Brooklyn, NY United States | 04/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I put myself on the waiting list for this item long before it was available. I was not patient and checked back frequently. I love Ousmane Sembene and wanted to be able to watch the video over and over. It is everything I hoped for. I don't know if I would have used the words 'lighthearted look' to describe the subject matter. Perhaps not as bleak as it could be - still there were hard to watch parts. But overall yes - the spirit is hopeful and helpful and the look inside the process has value perhaps beyond measure. I would buy it again and again."
Moolaade: Great adition to DVD collection
Adekemi Sijuwade | Brooklyn, NY USA | 03/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In a small, rural Burkina Faso village, where analog radio is still considered a novelty, women have steadily enforced an ancient tradition, despite Collé Gallo Ardo Sy's refusal to have her daughter circumcised. But now things are about to change because four other girls have run away from the "purification" camp to seek asylum with Collé.
Collé is the main character in Sembene Ousmane's film, Moolaadé (2004), a story about female genital mutilation in a small African society. Collé embodies female strength in this tale, overcoming death, disgrace, peer pressure- while managing to enforce change in this village trapped in time.
Ousmane uses African humor and wit to tell the story of a horrific act, which is not to say the film is not serious, but the subject is not over dramatized or politicized. The film captures the daily nuances of this Burkina Faso village and in doing so, reveals the social significance of female circumcision and a struggle to do away with the practice.
In the film, the group of powerful elderly women that perform the "purification" cut the young village girls and train their bodies to heal. The elderly women have barged on Collé to ask for six missing girls from the camp. Two of the six have run away, but the rest are being harboured by Collé. The girls have appealed for sanctuary in her home, and she in turn has called on the ancient protection of Moolaadé.
An ancient legend has it that the protective power of Moolaadé is so strong that it once turned a powerful village head into a hut that still remains today. This puts the Salindas and village chiefs in a rut, stirring up commotion and arousing deep emotions of control and anxiety about forcing Collé to yield, and say the word to lift the curse of the Moolaadé.
Ousmane takes us into the everyday lives of these characters from how they sleep, eat, buy goods and even have sex. He weaves through several plots to demonstrate the art of village living and also of African communal living. We see how in this lifestyle, obedience can mean the difference between having a powerful ally - such as the case of Collé's relationship with the first wife of her husband--or having no support at all.
Ousmane also introduces two characters who have exposure from the outside world to create a contrast and better understanding of how deeply entrenched these villagers are in their culture.
The Mercenaire, sells bread and other goods at jacked-up prices to the village. He represents change knocking at the door of this village, introducing worldly provisions such as bread and batteries. On the surface, he appears as a money-hungry womanizer, but in the end his actions prove much more.
The second character is the village chief's son who is to marry Amasatou, Collé's daughter. He seems to enforce change from the outside world, having lived in Paris and having brought home money and other gifts from abroad to this village. While an element of change, he is bound by tradition and his birthright as heir to his father's throne. The question is, will he marry a Bilakoro, one who has not been `purified'?
Moolaadé progresses gradually, yet from its very start we know this film is about the lives of the young girls who have escaped circumcision. Because of this pace, the film starts off in the middle of the events that are about to enfold. Characters are slowly developed to enlighten the viewer how in this culture, actions have to be carefully planned.
The story leaves questions about why the villagers are so bound by tradition. When threatened Collé's insubordination and fearful of other women following her lead, the male villagers create a law to ban all radio playing. All men here make a point of throwing all radios in the village square and subsequently burning this pile.
Ousmane is a great story teller who is apparently current with contemporary village African living and its struggle to reinvent itself. Though he died at 84 in 2007, this story is a classic in African filmmaking and storytelling. It captures the real life of Africans - dramatic, calculated, communal, planned and very traditional.
Watching Moolaadé on DVD is probably a better experience than watching it at the theater simply because there are quite a few great moments and replaying favorite scenes is relatively easy. DVD technology also enhances the wide-screen angle in which this film is shot. The product also offers the option of subtitles on and off, which is useful as well.
The DVD unfortunately does not offer a much sought-after directors' cut and extra scenes or a valuable overview from African cultural experts detailing why scenes were produced in a certain way.
Nevertheless, overall it is well worth adding Moolaadé to your cultural collection of films. It is educational as well as very entertaining and will serve this purpose for awhile to come."
Great film from Africa
Andres C. Salama | Buenos Aires, Argentina | 12/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found this film from the recently deceased Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene very interesting for its description of life in a rural village in Africa, specially in its description of the communal family structure (I know it's a cliche, but it's true that in Africa it takes a village to raise a child). While I come from a very different culture, I felt that I was able to understand what was going on, the struggle for power in the village between the men and the women. And Sembene was a really talented director, with a humanist sensibility. About the subject matter, a group of women who oppose the genital mutilation of young girls, well, as they say about song or movies against war or hunger, who can make a movie in favor of war or hunger? (on second thought, there has been many movies in favor of war). And it is touching that the village vendor (who appears at first to be the least likable person in the town, as he cares more about money than about the rural traditions) ends up being the martyr in the cause of the girls."