In the suburbs of N’djamena in Chad lives the single Amina with her 15-year-old daughter, Maria. When Amina finds out her daughter is pregnant and wants to end the pregnancy, both of them are at the start of a turbulent time in their lives in which religion, ethics and motherhood get tested.

African cinema seems like a world on its own, but the films that do find their way outside of the continent usually carry a powerful message. That’s also the case with Lingui, which premiered last year in Cannes and is now ready for its theatrical release. This Belgian-French-German-Chubian co-production tackles some heavy subjects that seem like basic human rights in “first world countries”, but as noticed recently in the news, something as important as abortion is still up for debate, even in a country as progressive as the USA.

In central Africa, religion is still a way of living, and islam forbids women to get an abortion. This doesn’t only bring shame upon Maria, but her mother has a hard time understanding how this could’ve happened and what to do next. When later on her estranged younger sister wants to rekindle their relationship, another very tough topic gets discussed, as her husband wants their daughter to be circumcised. It becomes clear that the oppression of women and the patriarchy runs deep and that causes for a lot of these women to do things illegally and in secret.

The story is told very simply and from the opening shot we can see Amina is a woman that can take care of herself perfectly fine. When we meet her older neighbour, who wants to marry her, we can easily understand her way of questioning his request, as she’s been single for such a long time.

The director uses his craft to uplift the story and the cast’s performances by framing certain shots strikingly gorgeous, giving the viewer a window into a world unknown to many. This is important storytelling.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Reviewed January 11, 2022 (screener provided by publicist). Rating: M. Running time: 87 min. 

PRODUCTION: An Imagine release of a Goï Goï Productions & Pili Films production. Producer: Melanie Andernach. 

CREW: Director/writer: Mahamet-Saleh Haroun. Editing: Marie-Hélène Dozo. Cinematography: Mathieu Giombini. Music: Wasis Diop.

CAST: Achouackh Abakar Souleymane, Rihane Khalil Alio, Youssouf Djaoro, Briya Gomdigue, Saleh Sambo.

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