Lingui, the Sacred Bonds
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun delivers one of his finest films with this moving portrait of a mother and daughter fighting for their rights in Chad.
Teenager Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio) is pregnant and has no desire to have the child. Single mother Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane) is determined to stand by her child. That’s no mean feat in a country where patriarchy runs rife and women’s bodies are not deemed to be their own. But as the two attempt to define what rights they have, they encounter a community of women who are willing to help and who come to represent the film’s title, which translates as ‘sacred bond’. Maria’s decision goes against the rules of the Muslim society, but the women prove to be a force of their own, standing not only up against the local Imam, but also the prejudice of men generally.
However, Lingui isn’t an ‘issues’ film. As it unfolds it becomes a powerful portrait of a mother and daughter relationship, with Souleymane stunning as a woman who appears to have experience far beyond her years. It’s the first time Haroun has placed women at the heart of his narrative and his empathy for Amina in particular is palpable. Like his earlier film, Abouna and Daratt, Lingui makes the most of its setting, in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, less for pictorial effect – although Mathieu Giombini’s camera captures the stark beauty and rich colours of the landscape – than for creating a setting that makes clear how women in this society are regarded. It cements Haroun’s position as one of the most thrilling filmmakers at work today.