Since the emergence of an international campaign to confront the practice of female genital cutting, African policymakers, feminist groups, grassroots organizations, and cultural producers have developed initiatives to raise consciousness about its harmful effects, especially as it relates to the health and bodily integrity of the woman and girlchild.
African film professionals have been visible in this effort, both filmmakers and actresses, women and men. Moolaadé (2004) by the pioneer of African cinema, the late Ousmane Sembene from Senegal, is emblematic in many ways. One of the most important voices of African cinema used what would be his last film as a cri de coeur. He states: It is not about whether one is for or against the eradication of excision. It is that women in the village do refuse. And this refusal is an act of courage. To stand against a group is sheer madness. But to mobilize the others, that is courage. Daily struggles, one step, then another, then another. This is what brings about the evolution of societies, changes attitudes.
On this 06 February, International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, the African Women in Cinema Blog acknowledges the critical engagement of filmmakers and other professional in cinema:
Zalissa Babaud-Zoungrana (Zamaana, il est temps ! | Zamaana, now is the time !, 2012)
"Numerous women in the world are still victims of excision despite the laws that prohibit it. By way of this short film, we want to tell African women's experiences while at the same time respecting their privacy, especially to emphasise the urgency to definitively abolish this practice." Zalissa Babaud-Zoungrana, director and producer. (African Women in Cinema Blog)
Beryl Magoko (The Cut, 2012)
A circumcised girl is like a stone…
The Kuria in Kenya and Tanzania are still practicing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as a ritual. It is painful and even dangerous. The older generation and peer pressure want to uphold the legacy of the ancestors… but the effect of this generational practice has created a mixed feeling in the young generation in the 21st century. So what can human right activists do? (African Women in Cinema Blog)
Ousmane Sembene (Moolaadé, 2004)
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 stillcommon 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-honored custom of moolaadé (sanctuary) 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 colorful, 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. (Africultures.com)
Anne-Laure Folly (Déposez vos lames, "put away your blades", 1999)
Each year two million girls are circumcised in the world. Senegal passed a law requiring severe punishment for this practice, thanks to the fight that Senegalese women lead for over 20 years. (Africultures.com)
Diaby Lanciné (La Jumelle, "the girl twin", 1998)
Awa and Adama are twins. Throughout her childhood Awa has more luck than her twin until she sells her soul to Mousso to enable her to pass her exams. Luck then turns on the side of Adama and the twins are separated. After many difficulties, Awa regains the joy of life, continuing to fight against forced marriage and female excision. Not only her struggle for her daughter Nina but for all women. However, the pain of the separation from her twin will always remain in her heart. (Africultures.com)
Zara Mahamat Yacoub (Feminine Dilemma, 1994)
Images presented in Feminine Dilemma are almost unsustainable to watch. One witnesses the circumcision operation performed on two young girls as women surrounding them in a courtyard clap their hands, dance and sing "you will not cry or we will never forgive you". Following this harrowing sequence, the film presents a series of interviews with religious leaders, women group representatives, health workers, everyday people and the girls themselves and asks the question: why female circumcision? Should it be performed and how? And what are the consequences? Following the making of this film, scandal broke and threats and attacks against the filmmaker followed. But once the dust settled, a debate started in Chad which allowed for open discussions of a topic that is still taboo in many parts of the world today. As for the filmmaker, Zara M. Yacoub, she will remain marked for life by her experiences making and defending this very courageous and disturbing documentary. (ArtMattan Productions)
Cheick Oumar Sissoko (Finzan, 1989)
In Finzan, Cheick Oumar Sissoko has skillfully crafted a film which raises one of the most important issues of African rural life, the status of women, in a style accessible to every villager. Finzan tells the story of two women's rebellion. Nanyuma, a young widow defies her brother-in-law, the village fool, when he asserts his traditional right to "inherit" her. Fili, a young woman sent from the city by her conservative father, is brutally "circumcised" by village women, scandalized by her refusal to submit to this ancient ritual. Sissoko weaves these two stories together into a painfully realistic picture of village society, tragically unable to free itself from the past. (California Newsreel)