Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
Original Title: Lingui
France/Germany/Belgium, 2021. Pili Films, Goi-Goi Productions, Made In Germany Filmproduktion, Beluga Tree. Screenplay by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. Cinematography by Mathieu Giombini. Produced by Melanie Andernach, Diana Elbaum, Florence Stern. Music by Wasis Diop. Film Editing by Marie-Helene Dozo.
Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun once again takes a story that could easily veer into cheap melodrama and creates a vibrant and richly compelling experience instead, employing a stunning visual style that has colours exploding all over the screen to contrast the serious subject matter at hand. Amina (a magnificent Achouackh Abakar) sells baskets by the side of the road while her daughter Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) goes to high school, a priority for Amina who is unconcerned that she is looked down upon by her community for being a single mother. When Maria tells her that she is pregnant, the two women become frantic about how to deal with it, as her daughter wants an abortion but the practice is forbidden by the law and their Muslim religion. Amina, it turns out, was also once a pregnant teenager who was abandoned by Maria’s father and banished by her family, and wants a different future for her child. Her search for a cause leads her to a doctor willing to perform the procedure but for a high price, which won’t be easy for a very poor woman who has barely been providing necessities in as it is. Rather than exploit these women and aggravate the audience with an issue-led indulgence in their misery, Haroun reveals, with a gentle reverence, a tier of Chadian society that exists beneath the patriarchal power of politics and religion, a support network of women who could be fairy godmothers for the way their comforting whispers of advice and assistance pop up as events transpire in an undetectable and unforced, almost magical manner. The director is taking on politically heated issues (female circumcision as well as abortion), but rather than boring us to death with his own righteous outrage (consider a similar movie like Grandma, which failed where this one succeeds), he wisely focuses on the practical matters of economic class and financial station that are often conveniently ignored by those with strong opinions on such subjects. The biggest irony is saved for the film’s conclusion in this beautifully shot and highly enveloping story, brought to life by a magnificent cast of actors.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Toronto International Film Festival: 2021