Warning – this movie is about topics of a highly sensitive nature, and potential triggers may appear in this review. Proceed with caution.
I feel as though it wouldn’t be right for me to review a film like this one – foreign to me both in terms of geography and experience – without prefacing my commentary with the concession that I am uncultured swine with virtually no knowledge of that which lies outside of my happy little bubble of interests. This means that I lack a proper understanding of the context of the final film of famed director Ousmane Sembène, Moolaadé, which concerns the matter of Africa’s traditions of female genital mutilation. While I do know a little bit about Islam, most of the context I have to help me better understand the film is knowledge of one of this director’s earlier works, Black Girl, which gives me a different perspective than other viewers might have. While there is obviously much in Moolaadé I feel I cannot comment on objectively, the subjective experience of how the movie made me feel is something that I, like all other viewers, am perfectly qualified to express. This will have to be my focus.
I must say that I was not much of a fan of his film Black Girl, and I was so unmoved by it that I never bothered to write a review, fearing I wouldn’t have enough to say. Moolaadé, by contrast, is a very gripping, moving film. Due to the bad subtitles that accompanied the copy of the film I was watching, I struggled to keep track of what was going on, which made it an experience that was not very enjoyable, but I still really appreciated the movie. I was still invested in some of the characters, amused by some of the humor, intrigued by some of the commentary, and very curious about how the story would end, which is enough to make it a good movie. When one then considers the reality and importance of the subject matter, and the way that it’s handled with drama, creativity, and empowering themes of liberation, it’s clear that this film is a special one. It may not be exactly my cup of tea, but I’d still recommend it, because any master of film like Sembène is considered to be would have to be proud to have this fine work of cinema as the finale to his filmography.