While wandering the world of international film lately, I stumble across stories like yours like I am an accidental tourist. In your case I truly am an outsider. As I observe the unfolding of your daily pace of life, it belies the seriousness of your story which perhaps mirrors the taboo nature of your topic. When the girls come to Colle for sanctuary you just brush by it and continue on your merry way telling me mundane stories about the villagers and impending weddings and all manner of social bric-a-brac. Do I chalk up this surreal story telling to your idioms and history or is my discord flashing my outsider badge for all to see? I decide it is perhaps both and try to follow as best I can.
I take stock at this point to remind myself you are telling a story about the horrid practice of purification (aka female child genital mutilation). I mean hell, I cringe at it even when it isn’t a part of you’re here-and-now tale. Perhaps that is the reason behind the disconnection of your story components. I meet the mighty Colle and her family and the beginning of the end of it all and it is empowering that you paint them as the regular townsfolk they are. It means something that is much more important later. The moolaade begins just as innocuously as the girls showing up, yet soon it will create ripples and a human revolution that will not be denied.
When the harpies that are the purifiers bring the men into the situation, it truly gets ugly and while the arrogance that men can generate creates a ripe environment for matriarchal unrest, the moolaade continues unabated. When two of your girls that are not protected throw themselves down a well instead of surrendering to the horror, the elder men close the well and say a few words like they had lost some livestock. When your director decides to show his true metal in this story, and we see a small girl wailing as the deed is done there is a cold dark outrage that starts to brew inside me. Yet it gets better when an elder brother convinces Colle’s husband to whip her until by tradition she says the word that ends the moolaade so everything can go back to normal. Well, you know she doesn’t say it and when the local traveling merchant steps in to say enough is enough he loses his life for his troubles and the insanity concludes with one of the moms stealing back her child during this whipping to feed to the vultures. Insane is the only word I have
When Colle does not budge and she knows her pain has bought the support of the women of the village she ends the moolaade and gives her wards over to their mothers. It is here I learn something about their conviction that eluded me up to now.
Perseverance. As the women gather and daughters and mothers reunite we find that another is lost to the knife and amidst the mourning and comforting there is a riveting moment when a small girl that is sitting in her mothers lap becomes fixated on this mourning mother who has lost her child and this little girl has a look of such anger, sympathy and strength that it takes your breath away and you know from this day forward there will be more Colle’s and as the story closes we quickly see this village will be forever changed, and rightfully so.
At the end there is a deep mixed reaction in me after having seen this story. As a man, there is first shame in being a man since it was men that propagated these brutalities. Yet as an enlightened outsider that abhors such things there is relief that I am not one of those … men. And so I stop in wonder to appreciate your nature and power as a story, (much like my appreciation for the nature and power of women,) and though hard to watch I feel gratitude and respect for this sharing and the fact that you are the other half of mans true being.
Bowing with Reverence and Respect, Always