KOROMOUSSO: Big Sister explores the personal stories and deep moments of support in a small community of women from West Africa
KOROMOUSSO: Big Sister, written and directed by Habibata Ouarme and Jim Donovan, is a deeply moving film that sheds light on the practice of female genital cutting, which takes place in 31 countries across three continents, and speaks to a practice that is deeply embedded in cultural and religious traditions. The film, which is in French and subtitled in English, is a character-driven documentary that explores the personal stories of three brave women who have experienced the devastating effects of female genital cutting on their physical, psychological, and emotional health. The film features a multiplicity of viewpoints, including medical professionals such as Papa Ladjike Diouf, a Psychotherapist, and Dr. Angela Deane, a Gynecologist-obstetrician, and RAFIQ (Action Network for the Equality of Immigrant and Racialized Women in Quebec). The motif of social activist and big sister runs through the film, giving it a structure and narrative as Ms. Ouarme seeks to effect social change and help her sisters on the path to healing.
The documentary is shot in Ontario, Quebec, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast, which gives the film added depth and complexity, situating it within specific contexts and juxtaposing different perspectives on how female genital cutting is perceived and understood. The film is well-crafted, well-written, and beautifully shot. The directors frame their subjects in natural light and against a backdrop of nature, creating some powerful scenes. One of the most moving scenes is when Ms. Ouarme goes back to her country of birth, the Ivory Coast, to the village of Sodepalm, where she was cut. Another powerful scene shows her standing barefoot on the beach, with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean ebbing and flowing in front of her, a metaphor for the many challenges she faces in bringing about change.
As I saw Ms. Ouarme playing hopscotch with her young nieces in Burkina Faso and engaging in a heartwarming conversation with her sweet and adorable namesake niece, I couldn’t help but feel a chill run down my spine. Her stance against female genital cutting is unwavering, as she has strongly advised her brothers not to subject their daughters to this harmful practice. May her nieces and all other girls worldwide be spared from it. “KOROMOUSSO: Big Sister” is a documentary that has tremendous educational appeal and can be used as a vehicle to promote social change and to understand the dynamics of female genital cutting. I highly recommend it, and I believe that it is highly deserving of your attention.
Watch the trailer for KOROMOUSSO: Big Sister below
KOROMOUSSO, BIG SISTER will have its World Premier on Thurs, March 9 at 7pm as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Free tickets for in-person and digital screenings are now available and can be reserved here