Four young girls run away from a “cutting” ritual in a small, tightly knit Muslim village, seeking refuge at the home of Colle Ardo Gallo Sy (Coulibaly), the only woman to have saved her own daughter, Amsatou (Traore), from the genital mutilation prescribed by African tradition. She offers them protection under the “Moolaadé,” a powerful spell that both the male village elders and female cutters respect and fear. But when Colle’s husband returns from a hunting trip, her spiteful brother-in-law convinces him that his wife needs to learn submission...
Ousmane Sembene, one of cinema’s great treasures, brings his characteristically wry sensibility to this moral tale about men and women, tradition and progress. The story revolves around the practice of clitoridectomy or “purification,” and Sembene’s position on the custom is crystal clear: it is outmoded and cruel. But he’s also created a lovely, often charming fable about the strength of women, the power of solidarity in the face of oppression, and the tension between sacred custom and personal choice. Sembene is a master storyteller, and “Moolaadé” is one of his very best films.