banner image

:: Moolaadé

Mooladé (meaning protection) is a film by one of African cinema’s figureheads, Ousamane Sembene. The film is second within a trilogy which explores the struggles and the difficulties within the daily lives of African citizens. Mooladé deals with the exceeding heavy subject matter of female genital mutilation and as such provides a confronting and thought provoking experience.

Set within a rural African Village the film follows the defiant struggle of Collé (Fatoumate Coulibaly) a woman attempting to subvert the traditional practice of the ‘Purification’ on young girls. Having already prevented the genital mutilation of her own daughter, Collé is regarded as a rebel and troublemaker within the community. When four young girls escape their own purifications they seek protection from Collé who evokes the Mooladé (a spiritual protection) over the children. This act of defiance prompts a series of events which unravel to illustrate the strength, joy, and brutality that the characters endure.

Mooladé focuses on the practice of purification on young women but there are many other issues which also punctuate the film. Including those of marriage, economics, politics and sexual equality. It is the personal insight into African society which Sembene conveys most effectively. Providing a view into a highly patriarchal community where subservient and docile women are most prized.

However, as heavy as the central themes are the film does not revel solely on the tragedy and brutality of the characters and their situations. Instead Sembene manages to infuse the piece with humor and lightness through the clever and ironic use of character situations and often music. The cinematography accentuates the raw and personal story. The lush greens of the trees juxtaposed with the earthen hues and the raw shapes of the mud brick buildings. Altogether projecting the beauty of the film.

You cannot watch this film without feeling a range of emotions. Mooladé is indeed a film that will challenge and evoke a greater understanding of the pertinent issues surrounding the tradition of purification. But the strength of the film lies in its results, it does not leave you completely saddened but rather it balances moments of intense anger, tragedy and fear with those of empowerment, victory and optimism.