sat 02/07/2022

Lingui: The Sacred Bonds review - female love finds a way | reviews, news & interviews

Lingui: The Sacred Bonds review - female love finds a way

Lingui: The Sacred Bonds review - female love finds a way

Backstreet abortion liberates in a warm Chadian drama

Blue mood: Achouackh Abakar Souleymane as Amina

“Lingui” is the Chadian word for “sacred bonds, the common thread”, a social ideal put to the test here by an illegal abortion.

Director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun – Chad’s artistic conscience, best-known for A Screaming Man – focuses for the first time on the sort of strong women who raised him, as they wage guerrilla war against cultural and religious strictures. Backstreet abortions were staples of ‘60s British kitchen-sink cinema, signifying grim, grey working-class reality. Haroun’s approach is very different, showing resilience, not bleak despair.

We meet our heroine Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) in greasy work-clothes, stripping out heavy tires to weave basket-like metal stoves, tough, resourceful work ironically resulting from her sexist stigma as a single mother. Folding herself into dazzling blue robes to trade in the capital N’Djamena’s streets, this Chadian Muslim woman’s double-life begins. Her 15-year-old daughter Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio, pictured below left with Souleymane) is glimpsed behind her bed’s gauzy yellow veil with a giant teddy bear, a child screened from the world but already wounded by it, as she bitterly reveals her pregnancy, and demands an illegal abortion. “I don’t want to be like you, Mum,” she rages. “Everyone thinks you’re a loose woman.” But the official world quietly shuts her down. There are no raised voices as the headmistress expels her, the Imam berates, and a doctor only agrees an abortion for money Amina doesn’t have.

Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) and Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) in Lingui: The Sacred BonesHaroun’s wide-angle frame takes in Chad’s hot light and rich, bright, sometimes desert-like colours, then comes to rest on contemplative faces. Still domestic scenes are broken by Maria’s desperate flight past blurs of cars, over a bridge where scooters’ golden lights manoeuvre in the dark, to the nearby countryside’s tree-lined river, which she enters, Ophelia-like, to drown. But even as the patriarchy shackles, lingui’s equally traditional bonds hold. Men rescue Maria, and mother and daughter bond in hostile glares at the Imam’s back. Amina lets herself off the leash with Maria, smoking and dancing to Snoop Dogg, and helps her estranged sister foil her daughter’s FGM; an abortion is performed out of love by a matronly woman nothing like those struck-off, seedy old kitchen-sink soaks, and when the villain behind Maria’s pregnancy is found, so is a baseball bat, as Amina dispenses rough justice.

Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) and Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) in Lingui: The Sacred BonesHaroun says Chad only has professional actors when he’s paying them. This leads to actors just being in scenes instead of emoting, sometimes disconcertingly, even woodenly so. But Haroun veteran Souleyman gives Amina a roguish, trickster’s glint, and Alio’s Maria moves convincingly between melancholy and flaring anger. When Amina looks straight up at cloud-fluffed skies, and Maria rises from her abortion bed, stepping into a tree’s green shadows, both glimpse something supernal, beyond their present plight. Lingui is anything but a heavy watch, as these women roll with injustice, and improvise better lives.

Folding herself into dazzling blue robes, this Chadian Muslim woman’s double-life begins

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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