2004 Top 10 - #4

December 27, 2004
A thought by James Berardinelli

#4: Moolaadé : For me, one of the great disappointments of 2004 was the anemic performance of this compelling feature at the art-house box office. If one of the purposes of movies is to take us to places we have never previously visited, most people would find such an objective to be served by Moolaadé, which transpires in a remote African settlement where the most advanced technology is a radio. Progress is coming, but slowly. The subject matter - female genital mutilation (euphemistically called "female circumcision") - may be foreign to North American viewers, but the themes - those of empowerment and a battle for change - are not. These are gripping and persuasive issues, and veteran director Ousmane Sembene gives us a story and characters worthy of them. Moolaadé is as much a thriller as it is a drama. There are moments of great tension and power. Unfortunately, the film did not find an audience, perhaps because those who frequent art-house theaters were turned off by the central plot device, or perhaps because films from Africa are not "hot" draws. New Yorker films circulated a limited number of prints across the country; rarely did the film play well enough for its run to last longer than a week. Hopefully, the eventual arrival of Moolaadé on video/DVD will make it available to a wider audience. This is a motion picture that deserves to be seen by a greater number of people than those who paid for theatrical admission.