DER Documentary

Bintou In Paris

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by Julia Pimsleur and Kirsten Johnson
Featuring the music of Angelique Kidjo
in French with English subtitles
color, 15 min, 1996

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A "fictional documentary" concerning female genital mutilation (FGM) or excision, Bintou In Paris tells the story of a young Malian mother faced with the critical decision whether or not to excise her daughter. Drawn to arguments against FGM — from the immediate and long-term health risks of FGM to its impact on female sexual pleasure — Bintou faces intense pressure from her husband and her mother-in-law to have her daughter excised. Through staged conversations between various groups of men and women of different generations, the film explores arguments for and against FGM, as well as the pull of maintaining tradition, and the gendered power relations implicit in the practice.

Bintou In Paris was filmed in France in 1996, at a time when a rise in African immigration to Europe brought the issue to wider attention. While many countries both within and outside Africa have since banned the practice, estimates made by the United Nations Population Fund in 2015, suggested that there are 200 million girls and women today who have undergone this mutilation. The practice has a long history worldwide, and persists particularly in various African and Arab cultures.

Bintou In Paris is an excellent introduction to the issue as it helps viewers understand the complex mix of the pressure to adhere to tradition while dealing with the roles and demands of a new culture with new views, laws and protections. The desires of a younger generation are now infused with a sense of female emancipation. While the film is acted, the inter-familial relationships ring true, as do the circumstances the film realistically constructs. The film enhances our understanding of a volatile topic without resorting to horrific images or descriptions.

Related Resources
Map of places in Africa where female genital mutilation is practiced (JPEG)

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
3rd Place Award for Creative Excellence, International Film & Video Festival, Chicago, 1996
African Film Festival, "Images d'Ailleurs" Paris, France, 1996

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts