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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moolaade: Great adition to DVD collection, March 8, 2008
This review is from: Moolaadé (DVD)
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.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 13, 2008 10:29:17 PM PDT
Afi Scruggs says:
I saw this film in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Cinematheque. It was profoundly moving and I'm glad to see it's finally made its way to DVD.
Reviewers always talk about Sembene's humor and the brightness of his lighting in a way that I find awfully patronizing. This film, like the others I've seen, is an examination of power and relationships. For example, the powers that be complain about the presence of radios because they expose the women to thoughts and views from outside the village. I won't give away a crucial scene involving radios. I will say, however, that scene summarized the themes of almost every Sembene movie I've viewed: Xala, Black Girl, Moolade and Faat Kine.

Posted on Oct 21, 2008 10:31:32 PM PDT
R. Gawlitta says:
Fine review, good insight. Thanks!

Posted on Sep 24, 2011 8:43:16 AM PDT
Angela says:
Nice review. Five stars for me!
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