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CANNES 2021 Competition

Review: Lingui, The Sacred Bonds

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- CANNES 2021: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun delivers a luminous work about a mother whose love for her daughter causes her to change course and to set about surmounting social and religious taboos

Review: Lingui, The Sacred Bonds
Rihane Khalil Alio and Achouackh Abakar in Lingui, The Sacred Bonds

Back in competition for the third time at Cannes following A Screaming Man [+see also:
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(which scooped the Jury Prize in 2010) and Grigris [+see also:
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(screened in 2013), Chad director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s latest work Lingui, The Sacred Bonds [+see also:
trailer
interview: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Achou…
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]
sees him returning to the same sober and patient style (by no means excluding tenderness or a focus on the physical) which characterised Daratt – Dry Season [+see also:
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(2006), for example; an approach which is further buoyed by the formal mastery of stripped-back cinema which the filmmaker has acquired en route, and which allows him to explore, with accuracy and determined simplicity, a feminist topic of primary importance in a Chadian society dominated by men and religious precepts.

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"Sorry to tell you like this, but Maria is pregnant. She’s been expelled from high school, it’s not good for their image." Amina (the charismatic Achouackh Abakar) had suspected something was amiss with her daughter (Rihane Khalil Alio) of late, who’d cut contact with her, withdrawing and tossing and turning in her sleep. The situation holds up a painful mirror to Amina who was herself a teen-mother, rejected by her family and held in disrepute by those around her. A frequenter of the Iman Brotherhood for the past ten or so years (who exhort her not to miss any prayers at the mosque to ensure she "cleanses herself of her sins" and who chase her at home when she decides to distance herself from them), this formidable woman works tirelessly to recuperate the wires which have been braided into cables inside old tyres, which she uses to make small stoves, which she then does her best to sell. But she’s not interested in a man’s protection and dodges the marriage proposals meted out by her neighbour Brahim (Youssouf Djaoro), instead dedicating herself entirely to her daughter’s present and future life. As such, when the latter tells her mum that she wants an abortion ("let me free myself from by body), a procedure which is strictly forbidden by their laws– an obliging doctor risks 15 years in prison – and religion, and that her desperation is close to driving her to suicide, Amina decides to subtly take action, to knock on every door and to change her own outlook on the world…

A beautiful portrait of a woman bravely taking her destiny in hand and of an affectionate mother-daughter relationship, but also an exploration of a country where women help each other behind closed doors, Lingui, The Sacred Bonds plays with a handful of archetypal characters, spinning a modern yarn whose every shot is sculpted in sobriety, luminosity and intimacy (a special mention goes to director of photography Mathieu Giambini). Touching upon weighty subjects such as abortion, rape and female circumcision, the film chooses not to broach these topics in head-on fashion, but rather to approach them from the inside, where that which is hidden freely circulates among the sisterhood and waits only to assert itself in the plain light of day, already coaxing the future into this direction.

Lingui, The Sacred Bonds is produced by French firm Pili Films and Chad’s Goï-Goï Productions, in co-production with German outfit Made in Germany and Belgium’s Beluga Tree. International sales are entrusted to Films Boutique.

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(Translated from French)

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