The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.


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09 March 2014

Femmes, entièrement femmes [Women, Completely Women], a film by Dani Kouyaté and Philippe Baqué. To rebuild oneself after excision, an analysis

Femmes, entièrement femmes [Women, Completely Women], a film by Dani Kouyaté and Philippe Baqué. To rebuild oneself after excision, an analysis by Olivier Barlet 

Translation from French by Beti Ellerson for the African Women in Cinema Blog. (An African Women in Cinema Blog/Africultures collaboration)

A French urologist has created a surgery for the restoration of the clitoris. Circumcised women are attempting to take advantage of it. In Burkina Faso and France, women have decided to undergo the operation. They bear witness of their efforts to become “whole” women. Actresses embody other women who choose to testify anonymously. A dialogue is established. Speech is liberating. Should the restoration of the clitoris become a universally recognized right? " Femmes, entièrement femmes will be broadcast on TV5 Monde, Friday, March 14, 2013 (18h Dakar time), Sunday, March 16 ( 6h Dakar time) and Tuesday, March 18 (15h30 Dakar time). It was released on 01 March at 21h on Lyon Capitale TV.

The only purpose of the clitoris is for woman’s pleasure: this is the only human organ that has this function as its sole purpose. But women's sexuality frightens men. Beyond all the explanations of the circumstances, excision is clearly designed to keep the woman faithful and muted: "A non-excised woman becomes too strong," asserts an old woman in the film by Dani Kouyaté and Philippe Baqué.

Yet another film about excision? With 140 million excised women across the planet, this will not be one film too many! However, its purpose is not to document the fight against excision…It provides information about the operation that restores the nerves and the normal form of the clitoris, allowing the woman to return to a life of a "complete" woman.

It is this adjective that Dani Kouyaté and Philippe Baqué choose for their film entirely devoted to the reconstitution of the clitoris. Because that is what it is about, as the women who testify clearly emphasize: to be a complete woman, to take back control of their life when they did not choose to be circumcised, to regain self-esteem and fill that sense of lack that has dominated them.

"It changed my life!" one of the women attests. Excision is the cause of haemorrhaging, infections, and in the case of infibulation, pain during sexual relations and the complications of tears during childbirth. But the focus of the film is not so much on the serious consequences of FGC, but daring to speak about it, and daring to want to undergo the operation ​​to "rebuild one’s life".

It is estimated that 2 million excisions are performed per year, or 6,000 per day. French urologist Dr. Pierre Foldes has developed a surgical procedure that restores the clitoris and has performed 4,200 operations. He is seen training other doctors in Burkina Faso to expand the possibilities. Of course, only a small number of women will be able to take advantage of this still rare and expensive operation, not to mention that there is the struggle against the presence of cults, such as the Raelians, or the risk of speculation of some doctors, and the lack of regulation policies. But confronted with the prejudices proclaimed by the men during a conversation at the start of the film, consciousness-raising is necessary and this film contributes greatly to it.

It adopts indeed a committed performed speech, beyond the simple face-to-face testimony, opening up the uncertainty and ambivalence of difficult decisions: the women (here, the actresses take their texts), arranged in a circle, share among themselves via a blog and confide in each other by typing on their computers. In the dark, the camera rotates around them, heightening the focus on what they are saying, while producing a rhythm in tune. The curve of the camera’s path forms a loop without closing it, coming back to itself while opening to the others. These intimate moments that respond and vibrate together, forge the possibility of a line, a melody, a common pulse that pushes further, becoming the speech and the momentum of these women who rebuild their lives.

It is in this steadfastness that they are able to overcome the issues of honour that are ascribed to excision: " I do not fear the knife, I fear the shame of my mother," sings an old woman in the film. But times have changed and the same woman says that today excised women do not find husbands. The importance and relevance of this film, whose logic is impressive, is to focus on healing, starting with rebuilding and thus not only of pleasure but of the whole and complete woman.

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