Leigh Raiford is an assistant professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley.
Already the most acclaimed African film of this decade, Ousmane Sembene's Moolaadé is “a rousingly political film...a critique of traditional forms of authority and a celebration of the warmth and dynamism of African village life” (A. O. Scott, New York Times); “a work of unpretentious simplicity and formal eloquence....This has to be the most richly entertaining movie anyone has ever made on the subject of female genital mutilation” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice). In a village in Burkina Faso, a group of small girls flee their culture's circumcision ritual and take refuge with the strong-willed Collé, a woman who calls down a moolaadé, or protection vow, to shield them. As the town's men threaten and curse Collé, and as the elderly women who perform the circumcisions hover like demons, the battle lines become drawn between men and women, tradition and modernity. Moolaadé at times plays like an old-fashioned Western, but the film's concerns-customs, religion, women's rights-extend far beyond the screen.-Jason Sanders
Moolaadé is repeated on Sunday, February 13.