Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater’s story of a mother’s struggle to protect her child premiered at Silverdocs in 2009. Its festival circuit included such events as Human Rights Watch, Urbanworld, Sarasota, Sebastopol Doc, Montreal Black, Bermuda, and Addis Ababa, and it previously screened as part of AfroPoP in 2011.
Attie and Goldwater’s film follows Mrs Goundo, a Muslim woman from Mali, who is living in Philadelphia with her husband and children. After she gives birth to a daughter, she seeks political asylum, fearful that a return to her village will see her child suffer from the same genital cutting that she experienced in her youth. As Mrs Goundo navigates asylum bureaucracy with the help of a fellow Malian translator, the film explores the genital cutting tradition, or excising, and how religion has been used to justify the practice, bolstered by social pressure. Intercut with Mrs Goundo’s story are those of other Malian women who are speaking out against the practice, and, most heart-wrenching, the spectacle of a mass excision ceremony back in Mali, as scores of girls, some newborn, others older but still pre-adolescent, are rounded up en masse to endure the pain and trauma of being cut – a fate that no doubt would await the documentary’s titular subject if not for her mother’s efforts in this sad, but still hopeful, film.