The Making of Moolaadé marked the first time that Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène, widely credited as the father of African cinema, allowed an outside camera to document his work.
Sembène's biographer Samba Gadjigo was given unrestricted access to the filmmaker during two weeks of filming in the spring of 2002. He captured Sembène, then 79, working 12-hour days in a dusty, remote African village where midday temperatures usually exceeded 100 degrees. There was no running water, and generators had to be brought in to provide electricity.
"That is a price to pay to make images in Africa, and Sembène believes it is worth it," Gadjigo said. The filmmaker believes it is important that images of Africa presented to the outside world be created by Africans themselves, not by outsiders who impose their own images on the continent. "To Sembène, an image is worth dying for -- images are as important as bread and clothing."
The documentary illustrates the difficulty of making a film in Africa. In more than a dozen interviews, actors, electricians, production personnel, camera assistants, and others connected with the film describe the challenges presented by the environment and a scarcity of funding. "It's an adventure, a job for crazy people," a production adviser, says into the camera. "Every film that gets made is a miracle." An Electrician agrees: "It's not talent we lack, it's equipment."
What also comes through is the tremendous respect and affection felt for Sembène, whose drive to reach his goals can make things difficult for those with whom he works. "He's tough on people's weaknesses," Gadjigo said. "He wants to extract the best of each individual in the crew, with a focus on productivity." In the documentary, Sembène speaks about his role as a filmmaker, and his reasons for making Moolaadé
The film is constructed on the tension between two ancient traditions: female circumcision and the right to offer moolaadé, or protection of the weak from the strong. Moolaadé tells the story of four young girls in a small village in Senegal who, encouraged by radio broadcasts from the outside world, revolt against the tradition of female genital mutilation. They seek the help of a woman in the village who offers them protection against their seizure by the male elders of the village. Protection of the weak is also a powerful tradition, and those who violate it face a penalty of death.
United States/ Burkina Faso, 2005
20 min., Unrated
Directed by SAMBA GADJIGO