When the film Moolaadé was introduced at Ebertfest, the woman taking on introduction duties on Roger Ebert's behalf said that she had asked Ebert if there was anything in particular he wanted her to say about the film. "Best film at Cannes in 2004," was his reply, and after seeing the film it's easy to see why.
Moolaadé certainly tackled one of the hardest subjects addressed at Cannes that year -- the controversial issue of female genital mutilation. The film, set in a small African village, opens with four young girls running into a village compound and seeking protection from Coolé, one of the women there. The girls have run away from the "Purification" ceremony -- a brutal ritual in which female priestesses mutilate the genitalia of young girls.
The "cutting," as it is euphemistically called, generally involves cutting away the external female genitalia, and sometimes sewing shut the vaginal opening -- a surgical procedure performed in non-sterile conditions with no anethesia or antibiotics. If a girl is lucky, the procedure will be horribly painful and leave her maimed for life, with future sexual relations with her husband causing tearing and intense pain, and childbirth made more difficult and dangerous. Those who aren't so lucky will die from the procedure, either from loss of blood, shock, or infection.