African cinema's founding father, 81 year old Ousmane Sembene, continues to be its most fiery, provocative spirit. Extending the strong feminist consciousness that marked his previous triumph 'Faat Kiné' (as well as such earlier classics as 'Black Girl' and 'Ceddo'), Moolaadé is a rousing polemic directed against the still-common African practice of female circumcision.
The action is set in a small African village, where four young girls facing ritual 'purification' flee to the household of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a strong-willed woman who has managed to shield her own teenage daughter from mutilation. Collé invokes the time-honoured custom of moolaadé (santuary) to protect the fugitives, and tension mounts as the ensuing stand-off pits Collé against village traditionalists (both male and female) and endangers the prospective marriage of her daughter to the heir-apparent to the tribal throne.
Though the subject matter might seem weighty, this buoyant film is anything but - Sembene places the action amid a colourful, vibrant tapestry of village life and expands the narrative well beyond the bounds of straightforward, socially conscious realism employing an imaginative array of emblematic metaphors, mythic overtones, and musical numbers. Winner of the Grand Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Moolaadé was selected by many prominent critics as the best film of the entire festival.
* Original theatrical trailer