“Lingui” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, the struggle of women, in Chad and elsewhere

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It is so far the most feminist film by the Chadian filmmaker. In “Lingui”, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun put his art of images at the service of the fight against female circumcision and submission. After leaving empty-handed of the winners of the Cannes Film Festival, the Fespaco in Ouagadougou and also the Carthage Film Days, “Lingui” will be released this Wednesday, December 8 in theaters in France.

Abortion and excision are at the heart of this tragic story, filmed in the suburbs of Ndjamena, in Chad. A story that is both very African and at the same time universal, because it could also have been shot in other African countries and on other continents. Lingui frontally questions the links and values ​​considered sacred in a patriarchal society like Chad: the absolute prohibition of the voluntary termination of pregnancy, but also the practice of excision, this ritual mutilation consisting of the removal of the clitoris which is considered in France as a crime punishable by law. Fortunately, thanks to the force of the stunningly beautiful images, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun succeeds in inscribing and transforming this terrible reality into an optimistic utopia.

If we had to choose just one scene from this wonderful film, it would be the one from the beginning. Where Amina is struggling to get out of an old truck tire steel wires to then weave beautiful baskets. Once she has revived matter in another form, the mother leaves her modest home to seek a future, for herself and her 15-year-old daughter. Dressed in an ocher orange dress marrying the sun and the sand, and with three baskets on her head and two in her hands, she walks, exuding a divine grace. However, we must remember: she is just going to town to sell her baskets in the street or in the market.

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and the beauty of gestures

Like a painter, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun frees all superfluous or superficial things from his compositions to get to the point. Projected on the big screen, it allows us to live and travel with his characters, to move like them in this natural and human landscape in which he embarked us like a captain in his canoe.

The Chadian director loves to give time to time. Its cinema draws its energy from the beauty of gestures and colors, the grace of silhouettes and landscapes, the depths of humanity expressed through the voices of men and women.

He has always refused to submit his images to an obligation of any action. A screaming man, Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, tells a father-son story against the backdrop of the civil war in Chad, in which Haroun himself was wounded before going into exile for a long time in France. In 2013, he presented in Cannes Grigri, a love story between a young disabled dancer and a young prostitute. And four years later, he was again in contention for the Palme d’Or with his documentary on former Chadian president and dictator Hissène Habré, without which he ” will never have left Chad “.

Violence and taboos

In Lingui, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun once again ostentatiously slows down the rhythm of the images. This one stays slow until the end. On the other hand, in our heads, the story accelerates and leads us to other horizons. The story of Lingui – sacred ties seems simple. A 15-year-old girl finds herself pregnant and risks repeating her mother’s tragic fate. Like her daughter today, Amina was abandoned by the child’s father, expelled from school. Until today, she has to work hard to survive, her family having cut off all contact with her. And since she became a girl-mother, no one respects her in this society dominated by the Muslim religion.

So, how to get out of this impasse? Maria wants an abortion at all costs so as not to suffer the same fate as her mother. But this act, which has become commonplace in many Western societies, is doubly prohibited in Chad, by the Muslim religion and by the law which provides for five years in prison.

Men, religion and hypocrisy

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun – short-lived Minister of Culture in Chad from 2017 to 2018, a post he officially left for ” personal reasons brings up on the screen in a thousand ways the contradictions between words and deeds reigning everywhere in Chadian society. That of religion (” we are all brothers ») Which especially ensures that women stay in the place decided by the patriarchy. There is also the hypocrisy of men whose actions often contradict their words. Without forgetting the school which puts the chimera of the reputation of the establishment above its educational mission. Then, the detail that kills: in the film, the only man of good will fails miserably.

There remains then the solidarity between women mistreated by society. They never stop looking for solutions to problems considered insoluble. They alone carry the change, often introduced by detours, actions in the shadows, while pretending to respect the tradition and the rules of this society which encloses them. Women realize that the time has not yet come to openly demand respect and change.

Reality, cinema and imagination

With its happy ending, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s cinematic fairy tale is probably far from reality in Chad. And a pity that some scenes give the impression of an educational note turned more towards a Western audience than African or universal. Nevertheless, the greatest merit of the film remains intact: to outline the horizon of a possible change and to designate the actors of this upheaval. Above all, feed our imagination with breathtakingly beautiful images. It was always the fight for dreams and the commitment to utopias that made societies move forward.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this short article for this amazing content

“Lingui” by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, the struggle of women, in Chad and elsewhere