Lingui (2021) Cannes Film Festival 2021

July 8th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun | Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane KHALIL ALIO BRAHIM Youssouf DJAORO FANTA Briya GOMDIGUE | Chad, Drama, 87′

Visual storytelling at its most resplendent Lingui is a simple tale gracefully crafted by a director at the top of his game and brought to life by his talented cast.

In a landlocked Muslim country Lingui (The Sacred Ties) follows Amina an observant single mother living on the margins of a male-dominated society with her teenage daughter Maria. The men not only hold sway, they hold themselves above the law, laying it down harshly for their womenfolk. So the women are forced to play them at their game as we discover when Maria falls pregnant and cannot, by law, have an abortion.

With his vibrant compositions and exquisite framing the director keeps dialogue to a minimum in this filmic ‘whodunnit’ relying on strong cinematic language and a propulsive occasional score by Wasis Diop to show how moments of pleasure occasionally break into the harsh realities of life in Chad’s main city of N’Djamena, where a tribal society has given way to strictly enforced Islam with mosque attendance ‘de rigueur’. Woman are expected to the subservient and cover themselves up in public, ritual circumcision is routinely practiced and performed by the women themselves when the girls are still very young. To be an unmarried mother is considered sinful whatever the circumstances and so for Maria the future looks especially bleak. And rumours spread fast.

Amina makes metal household equipment which she sells for a pittance by the roadside, but not enough to pay for illegal medical intervention. Maria is a typical young teenager: proudly defiant and living by her own modern standards, but her pregnancy will take her back to the dark ages of backstreet abortions and sham. Worse still, she won’t reveal the truth behind her pregnancy until circumstances suddenly a solution. MT

Born in Chad, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun first won critical acclaim for his short films before directing his first feature, Bye-bye Africa (Best First Film, Venice Film Festival 1999). He then went on to direct Abouna (Our Father) (Director’s Fortnight, Cannes 2002), Daratt, Dry Season (Special Jury Award, Venice Film Festival 2006), A Screaming Man (Jury Prize, Cannes Film Festival 2010), Grigris (Vulcain Prize for Best Cinematography, Official Competition, Cannes Film Festival 2013). Hissein Habr , A Chadian Tragedy, his first documentary film, was selected at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Official Selection – Special screening. A Season in France, is his first feature film shot in France, starring Eriq Ebouaney and Sandrine Bonnaire. Selected at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 – Special Presentation. New York paid tribute to Mahamat-Saleh Haroun by hosting two retrospectives of his films: in 2006 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and in 2018 at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). In 2010, he received at the Venice Mostra the Robert Bresson Award for his complete works and in 2013, the Fellini Medal awarded by UNESCO.

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