Moolaadé (2004)




Director:     Ousmane Sembene.

Starring:     Fatoumata Coulibaly (Collé Gallo Ardo Sy), Maimouna Hélène Diarra (Hadjatou), Salimata Traoré (Amasatou), Dominique Zeïda (Mercenaire), Mah Compaoré (Doyenne des Exciseuses), Aminata Dao (Alima Bâ), Rasmane Ouedraogo (Ciré Bathily), Ousmane Konaté (Amath Bathily), Bakaramoto Sanogo (Abdou), Modibo Sangaré (Balla Bathily), Joseph Traoré (Dugutigi), Théophile Sowié (Ibrahima), Balla Habib Dembélé (Sacristain), Gustave Sorgho (Bakary), Cheick Oumar Maiga (Kémo Tiékura).

a woman offers four girls protection from female genital mutilation and has to face male power and deeply-rooted tradition



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

Four girls come running over to Mother Collé, who is about to start hitting the bowing children with a hand broom when her daughter Amsatou tells her not to beat the girls.  The girls have run away from the excision.  Mother Collé tells her to go get Mother Diattou.  (Father has three co-wives.)  Mother Diattou comes and expresses surprise and sympathy for the girls running away from the "purification".  The father comes out and wonders a loud what are the drummers trying to say with their drumming?  The women bow to the man, named Ciré Bathily.  Mother Diattou says they too were wondering about the drums.  Bathily says they are looking for human beings and it sounds serious.  In fact, six people are missing. 

Another man named Balla comes over to Ciré Bathily and asks him if he is ready to go?  Yes, he is.  The two men leave.  The runaway girls now stand up and say that they seek the protection of Mother Collé. There is disagreement among the women about what to do.  One woman warns Collé that the woman who protects them will be accused of having inspired them.  Amsatou takes the girls inside one of the houses so the girls can change out of their purification clothes. 

A woman named Sanata calls out to a merchant.  She asks him to save three kilos of bread for her.  He replies:  "It is as if you already have them in your belly."  He flirts with Sanata and she smiles, but then she calls him a "womanizer" and leaves. 

The girls start following Amsatou who is going to buy bread when Mother Collé stops them.  Mother Collé puts a yarn rope across an entrance/exit way.  She tells the girls not to step over the rope unless they have her permission.  Whoever disobeys this will be caught and killed by the Moolaadé.

Amsatou gets her bread and some radio batteries.  The merchant asks her to wait while he helps another customer.  The merchant, however, loses the customer because again he is flirting with her and trying to pick her up.  The merchant now turns his attention to Amsatou again.  He says that he will make her his wife.  Amsatou gets angry and says that her fiancé is richer than the merchant and he works in Paris, France.  She leaves. 

Amsatou is back home and she asks Mother Collé if she can buy a nice dress the merchant is selling?  Mother says she is penniless and Amsatou will have to wait for the return of her father.  So Amsatou leaves in a huff and asks Mother Diattou.  Mother Diattou is very willing to go with her to look at the dresses. 

Mother Collé asks the young girls why did they chose her to come to?  Nafi says that she was their last resort.  They tried two others, but they would not given them protection.  They also came to her, say Oumy, because they heard that she refused to have her own daughter cut.  Their protector tells the girls that purification is one thing but Moolaadé is something else.  She asks Diattou why she ran away?  Diattou says because her sister died of the purification.  Awa says she came because Collé did not have her daughter cut.  She adds too that Amsatou's fiancé in France is the son of the Dougoutigui and he is bringing back with a lot of money from France. 

Mother Diattou and Amsatou return from the merchant loaded down with many items.  Mother Diattou tells Mother Collé that they bought the things on credit.  Amsatou's fiancé will pay for the items when he gets here. Mother Diattou has the girls take all the items into the house. Collé tells Mother Diattou that she has started the Moolaadé.  Mother Diattou says this is a matter of life and death, but Collé won't budge. 

The Salindana arrive.  They are a  large group of women dressed in orange who run the purification ceremony.  They are stopped at the rope over the threshold.  The spokeswoman says to Collé that seven years ago she refused to have her daughter purified.  Why does she oppose the cutting of the four girls?  Because she lost two daughters cut in the purification.  The women protest.  One asks:  "You want our daughter to remain a Bilakoro (a not purified woman) like your Amsatou?"   Collé just said that if anyone crosses over the rope, they will be punished by the Moolaadé.  She now calls the four girls over and says if they want purification, they should cross over the rope.  The girls are not going to do that.  Now Collé is accused of manipulating the girls.  The spokeswoman says she will have to neutralize the power that Collé has. 

The women go to find their other two children.  Collé is so happy that she starts dancing and singing.  The other women join in with her. 

Batlla arrives.  The women stop singing and dancing and go inside their homes.  He tells one of the mothers who did not flee that the Salindana did complain.  He tells mother that they must give up the four girls or Salindana will cast a spell over the girls.  The mother tells him no and then sends him over to speak with Mother Collé.  Bathily says that Mother Collé is a madwoman. 

The group of women dressed in orange now check on the purified girls.  One is in great pain saying that she can't urinate.  The spokeswoman says to put some type of butter on the area and remove the clot.  The women now confer with each with each other about what to do about Mother Collé.  One woman suggests that they should request a meeting with the Dougoutigui (the chief). 

A group of male visitors arrive.  The orange-bedecked women now join the group.  The spokesman tells the visitors that the Salindana wish to be heard.  A female spokesperson now tells them about their problem.  One of the men is the brother of Collé's husband and he gives permission to go get the girls for purification.  The spokeswoman says they cannot get the children because Collé has granted them the Moolaadé.  A man says that they cannot take the four children until Collé says the redemptive word.  But there is one way out for the men.  A husband has unlimited powers over his wife, and a husband can demand that his wife say the redemptive word. 

The Dougoutigui now excuses the women.  They line up and head back to look at the four children.  The children run away in fright.  Collé gets her knife and comes out to stare at the women.  The women leave, but the husband's brother and Balla come in.  The brother-in-law complains that co-wife Collé has bad manners. 

A pick up truck arrives loaded with lots of blankets.  The women line up along the path of the pick-up truck welcoming its passengers.   The fiancé Decouré steps out of the truck.  He is called the heir to the throne.  He gives a wave to the many women around him.  The women put down something like thin mats so Decouré can walk on them.  Father and son now hug each other. And in the village itself women line up along the way to welcome the hero of the day.  Now Decouré greets the villager elders (all male). A young girl brings the welcoming water to Decouré and he drinks some of the liquid.  More women come out to greet Decouré.

Amsatou complains to her mother.  If she had been purified seven years earlier she could have given Ibrhima Doucouré the welcoming water.  Her mother tells her to feel no shame in being Bilakoro because genital mutilation is a bad thing.  Amsatou is still angry and she tears up the photograph of Decouré in front of her mother and lays the pieces in her lap. 

Women come crying with bad news. They cry:  "The two missing girls threw themselves into the well."  They fill in the well for the funeral of the two girls. 

Ciré comes home.  He is greeted by his brother and told of the trouble with Collé.  Because of this the son of the Dougoutigui cannot marry Ciré's daughter.  Brother says Amsatou must be purified and Collé's radio must be confiscated.  Ciré is angry and father leaves to go home.  And at home, he yells at his three wives saying they should have expelled the four girls.  He tells them to get out, but calls Collé back.  He says that she is his favorite wife.  He says that she is now asking for all the girls to remain Bilokoro.  He now demands that tomorrow Collé will utter the word that ends the moolaadé.  All the girls, including, Amsatou will be purified.  Furthermore, the radio is not be in his house anymore.  An upset Collé asks to be excused and leaves. 

Collé goes to talk with the two other wives and she says that the village is as quiet as a graveyard.  Mother Diattou says that the men confiscated all the radios of the women.  The elder of the wives tells Collé that she is on her side of this dispute.  She goes on to say that Collé can trust her, because she has often lied in order to protect Collé.  Mother Diattou says that she will keep all the young girls at her place now. 

One of the small girls has been captured and  is being purified and she screams bloody murder, begging for mercy for her.  Meanwhile, Collé is having sex with her husband (brief nudity).  Collé now takes a bath (some nudity). 

Decouré learns that now even the TVs can't be turned on because they are a worse influence than the radio.  The young man doesn't agree with these policies saying that they can no long silence these media.  And now he drops a real bomb on hte elders.  They have planned for him to marry a very young girl because Amsatou is Bilokoro, but Decouré says his marriage is his own business.  Now dad really gets angry and threatens to disinherit his son.  His mother signals him not to say anything more.  Decouré starts leaving, but dad stops him long enough to tell his son to pay off his debts with the merchant.  Shortly after, mother and the woman with her leave the father's presence. 

Meanwhile dad has Amsatou's radio and another radio confiscated.  Dad also tells Amstou that she will be purified.  

A big stack of radios builds up outside of the mosque.  Decouré speaks with the merchant about how much his father owes the merchant and he is astounded by the amount.  He says that the merchant is cheating people by terribly overpricing his goods.  Nevertheless, Decouré pays the merchant.  Now the merchant tells him how much the man owes to pay off Amastou's purchases for the wedding.  Decouré says he doesn't have to pay off Amsatou's debts.  Now he goes over to see Collé and Amsatou. 

Amsatou brings the welcoming water for Decouré, who asks Amsatou how will she marry if she is Bilokoro?  One of the four girls asks if the rich man refuses to marry a Bilokoro woman?  The adults laugh at the question because it is so forward.  The elder wife tells the young man that she bought some things for Amstou and her wedding on credit in his name.  Decouré says she did do the right thing and he will pay the debt. 

At night some of the women meet by a big tree to gripe about the men and their taking all their radios. 

Decouré pays off Amsatou's debt. 

Collé has to listen to her husband and brother-in-law ball her out about the purification matter.  Amsatou comes in and says that the Salindana want to speak with her mother.  The brother-in--law tells Collé she can leave.  When she is out of the house, the brother-in-law tells his brother that Collé has made him the laughing stock of the village.   He takes out a whip and tells his younger brother that he will have to whip Collé to utter the word that exorcises the Moolaadé.  In fact, he demands that his brother whip Collé.  This is going to draw a big crowd. 

So the husband starts whipping Collé over and over.  The women are upset, while the men are urging on the whipping.  The women yell to Collé not to say the word.  The merchant finally comes over and physically stops the husband from beating his wife any more.     Collé is about to collapse but the women yell to her to keeping standing up.  She rises back up.  The women help carry Collé back to her house. 

The two big chiefs are really angry.  One of them tells some men to take the merchant away from the village and make him disappear.  At night a group of black men with their faces painted white come to drive out the merchant.  The merchant pulls his cart along ahead of the men.  A lot of his not secured sales items fall onto the ground. 

The two co-wives put some salve on Collé's back.  She asks about her girls and Mother Diattou says that one of the girls was grabbed during the confusion of the beating.  She was cut and the poor girl died from it.  Collé starts to cry.  And now comes more bad news.  The merchant was murdered and all his money stolen.  This further upsets Collé, who now says to take the rope taken down. 

Some women come over to talk about the recent events.  Collé comes to the get-together with the radio that Mother Diattou gave her.  The radio provides music for the women.  And now Collé tells her three girls to come to their mothers and be reunited.  The girls come out and happily go to their mothers.  The mother of the girl Diattou cries over the loss of her daughter.  Now the women say that they honor Collé for her resistance.  The mother of Diattou says that purification robbed her of her daughter.  Many of the women start crying. 

Flashback to Diattou being grabbed to be purified. 

One of the women with Collé now gives Diattou's mother her baby as her god-son to raise.  The group now goes to the burning of the radios and they all shout that no more girls will be cut in their village.  The women in orange now appear and the women start calling them baby killers, child killers.  They force the orange women to through their knives down onto a cloth taken from one of the girls about to be purified. Then they pull off the coverings of the young girls. 

And now Collé says she is going to confront the men.  Sanata urges Collé to give them hell.  Collé tells the men there will be no more cutting or she herself will burn the village down.  The men say that purification is a requirement of Islam, but Collé tells them that it certainly is not required by the Islamic religion.  One man says she is satan!  Collé doesn't let it bother her. She and the other women start shouting:  "Wassa!  Wassa!"  Ciré and Balla now go back home, walking away from the men.  Decouré walks away from the men to be with Amsatou even though dad once again threatens him with being disinherited. 


Another good film.  The film is a reminder about the bad old days when women were virtual slaves to men.  The women kowtow to them, but they don't necessarily like it.  One woman battles almost everyone to save four girls who have run away from the purification ceremony.    She does get the support of co-wife Diattou.  This makes Mother Collé feel much better about her struggle. The real change comes not, however, from Mother Collé but from the nasty backlash the men engage in.  They take away all the women's radios and this really ticks them off.  They discuss it a lot amongst themselves.  And worse, they urge father, to lash his wife Collé with a whip.  The women now get really mad and urge Collé to keep literally standing up against this injustice.  She starts to sink, but the women urge him back up to her full height.  And now the men are confronted by an organized revolt.  The movie has a happy ending which compensates a bit for having to watch a lot of prejudice and discrimination against the women and girls of the tribe. 

Fatoumata Coulibaly was great as Mother Mother Collé.  The film is an inspiration to keep fighting the good fight against prejudice and bigotry of all kinds.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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