CFS to screen socially conscious ‘Moolaadé’

Villanovan Editor

Written and directed by Ousmane Sembène – often regarded as the “Father of African Cinema” – and filmed in Burkina Faso, the 2004 film “Moolaadé” tells the story of a woman who sets out to protect a group of young girls from ritual genital mutilation despite the protests of the rest of the villagers.

“Moolaadé” represents the capstone achievement in Sembène’s groundbreaking career.

Born in the French colony of Senegal in 1923, Sembène never completed his education but moved to the capital city of Dakar where he worked odd jobs before being drafted to fight for France in World War II.

Afterward, he returned to Senegal where he participated in a workers’ strike; shortly thereafter, he moved to Marseilles, France, becoming a dock worker.

In France, Sembène joined the Communist party and became well-read in politics, organized labor and colonialism.

After meeting notable French writers, Sembène wrote his first novel, “The Black Docker,” in 1956.

A string of other novels followed, including “God’s Bits of Wood,” increasing Sembène’s global profile, especially in Communist countries.

After Senegal gained independence from France in 1960, Sembène returned, but he soon realized that the increasingly politically and socially progressive messages in his literary works were unable to be read by the mostly uneducated natives. To rectify this, he decided to turn to the medium of film, studying filmmaking in the Soviet Union for a year.

Once back in Africa, he produced a series of short films, followed in 1966 by “Black Girl,” the first feature-length film by a sub-Saharan filmmaker. “Black Girl” won the prestigious Prix Jean Vigo.

Until this point, all of Sembène’s films had been in French, but his next, “Mandabi,” was in his native Wolof language.

Although Sembène was less prolific in his later years, 2004’s “Moolaadé” is quintessential Sembène, right down to its socially conscious theme.

The film centers on a woman named Collé Gallo Ardo Sy, who is infamous in her village for not allowing her own daughter to undergo the painful, often deadly ritual circumcision procedure.

Knowing this, four young girls turn to her for “moolaadé,” which is variously translated as “magical protection” or “sanctuary.”

This results in a violent standoff between Collé and her supporters and the patriarchy-reinforcing men and the pro-circumcision women of the village.

Originally intended as the second film in a trilogy that also included “Faat Kiné,” which was shown in last year’s Cultural Film Series, “Moolaadé” was Sembène’s final film before he passed away in 2007.

The penultimate film in this semester’s Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “In Memoriam,” “Moolaadé,” will be shown four times in the Connelly Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.

Admission is free for students with ID and $5 for all others.  Maghan Keita, professor in the history department, will provide an introduction and lead a discussion after the Monday viewing only.