Screened as part of NZIFF 2005

Moolaadé 2004

Directed by Ousmane Sembene

In this stirring film by the 81-year-old father of African cinema, the defiant wife of an elder in a West African village refuses to allow four girls to undergo the traditional initation rite. “It makes a powerful statement and at the same time contains humor, charm and astonishing visual beauty.” — Roger Ebert

France / Senegal In Bambara and French with English subtitles
123 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Dominique Gentil


Abdellatif Raïss


Boncana Maïga


Fatoumata Coulibaly
Maïmouna Hélène Diarra
Salimata Traoré
Aminata Dao


Cannes (Un Certain Regard), Toronto, New York, San Sebastián, London 2004; Rotterdam 2005


“The second film in a trilogy celebrating African women, this is a masterwork by Ousmane Sembene, the 81-year-old father of African cinema and one of Senegal’s greatest novelists. It focuses on the defiant second wife of an elder in a West African village, who refuses to allow four little girls to undergo the traditional circumcision ceremony. Among Sembene’s strengths as a storyteller are his deceptive simplicity and apparent looseness, which allow his drama to steadily gather momentum and political force. His ambiguous, multilayered treatment of a flirtatious local merchant who partially represents the world outside the village is emblematic of his virtuosity.” — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader 

Moolaadé is the most powerful political film on the screen today. And its persuasiveness is rooted in the Senegalese filmmaker’s use of African folk-narrative traditions – conjuring up a great, rich hubbub as brilliant with color and characters as any drama on a less daunting subject… As the village is stirred by rebellion, Sembene allows each argument its dignity, presenting the challenge to change and adapt as an embrace rather than an admonition.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly 

“At 81, having organized unions, written novels and directed a handful of immortal films, Mr Sembene surely has nothing left to prove, but Moolaadé may well be his autumnal masterpiece – a rousingly political film that is a critique of traditional forms of authority and a celebration of the warmth and dynamism of African village life.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times