While some films have the potential to be unappealing, others have the power and capability to be influential. “Lingui: The Scared Bonds” is the latter, a film that sheds light on the experiences of resilient Chadian women and promotes social issues that women in many communities have been battling.
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, the film revolves around Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane), who is a 30-year-old Muslim single mother of Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio). As the plot unravels, it comes to light that Maria, a 15-year-old, is impregnated by a man she refuses to name and wishes to abort the child. In a country that abortion is both legally and religiously condemned, a window is opened for viewers to get an insight into the hardships these women had to face against a society that opposes their individual choices.
Referring to the title of the film, Lingui as a Chadian term refers to the collective solidarity and bond that links people and strengthens them through the adversities of life. In another light, Lingui can be people providing you with a juicer when life throws lemons at you and you cant squeeze them. That same light is cast in the film where it is intentionally communicated to the viewers how important it’s to have people in our lives that would unconditionally support us.
Amina was seen to be first introduced making wire stoves from metals of car tires, depicting the surface of the hardships she has been enduring to provide for her daughter. However, as she finds out about her daughter’s pregnancy and expulsion from school, we get to see beyond the surface of her struggles- as both a mother and a woman in a Chadian society. Amina, religiously devoted and Anti-abortion, slaps Maria at the mention of wanting to get an abortion but Maria stands her ground to exercise the right to her body and her authority to do what she wants with it. This is where the beginning of a complicated yet strong mother-daughter relationship is seen when Amina decides that she is willing to ensure her daughter exercises that liberty. Being unwed and impregnated at Maria’s age, alienated from society, and disowned by her family was not an experience she wanted her daughter to go through. Maria herself mentions that she doesn’t want to be like her mother who “everyone thinks [is] a loose woman.” She even viewed suicide as a better option than to live the life her mother had lived.
Lingui truly challenges our understanding of these particular societies and their realities. A unique form of open commentary of the social world where women silently struggle. Aside from covering topics such as abortion and suicide, Haroun was also able to explore other topics such as Female Genital Mutilation (FMG). He creatively weaves this life-threatening violence against women by introducing Fanta’s daughter (Amina’s niece) who is threatened to be mutilated – the pinnacle exposure of men’s harsh laws and control. He further extends this by showing how Amina’s neighbor Brahim proposes to her with “protection” in return, against a society that “scorns” her for being a “single mother”.
Additionally, Haroun’s cinematography and casting were really in favor of the message he was trying to communicate in Lingui. The close-ups captured the intimate moments and raw emotions displayed in the actors’ facial expressions where Achouackh Souleymane’s excellent performance presented Amina as a charismatic character. The saturated, contrasting colors of African patterns of the women’s attire were also distinct from the dusty and sandy landscape which evokes an aesthetic response. All these factors worked together along with Haroun’s silent yet dramatic storytelling to create a powerful film.
Sometimes, we become uncomfortable and afraid to present reality for what it truly is. However, Lingui challenges that and gives us a sense of the possible lives women live in patriarchal societies. With each moment being informative, the film urges us, the viewers, to look beyond our limitations and those imposed by our culture.
“I can only exist because others exist, that is Lingui” stated Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and that makes us reflect and question our values and the principles of what makes us human.
Lingui simply exhibited creativity that served as a force – a stab at patriarchy.