Moolaade (Sembene, 2004)

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Ousmane Sembene died in 2007, and Moolaade was his last feature film as director. Above all things, the film is an engaging final statement on women’s equality and rights by an artist who’s been dealing with the subject for almost 40 years. Set in a rural but modern African village, Moolaade uses the vibrant colors of the locale to heighten the unsettling attitude many of the male inhabitants have toward tradition and hierarchy. This contrast in tones and textures becomes a key motif. Sembene sees his female protagonists, who decide to give asylum to four young girls fleeing the “purification” ritual (female circumcision), as a collective heroine, a group given strength and focus by the deafening pride of their elder male statesmen. In the face of complete unrest, these women stand aligned not because of gender, or skin color, but because of a desire to protect their children, and in turn their future. In the final sequence. Semebene cuts from an image of an Ostrich egg atop a Mosque to a large antenna, finalizing a shift into the age of information and education that’s been building the entire film. It’s a brilliant match cut worthy of Nicolas Roeg, and Semebene’s firm grasp on the staggering relationship between moving pictures and moving characters will sorely be missed.

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