And as we learn from The Day I Will Never Forget, it is an operation often performed by elderly, uneducated women using primitive instruments under not exactly the most hygienic circumstances. Consequently, some bleed to death, get infections or must ’merely’ live with pain each time they urinate. And if the operation doesn’t leave them with daily complications, then the day they lose their virginity, the experience involves unimaginable pain.
Circumcision is practised in some Muslim groups and also in some traditional African religions. In Kenya, Kim Longinotto visits Muslim Somali communities as well as communities based on traditional African religions. The film is structured around episodes. Her main characters are some young girls who are (or are about to be) victims of circumcision, and some admirable women in the community who persistently, through patient conversation, work to change people’s minds. And even though you would wish you could stop circumcision overnight, it is apparent that the women’s efforts are probably the proper course of action, but it will take a long time.
When confronted with all the sufferings endured by the women (or girls), both communities use the same defence: ”It is part of our culture.” No reasoning, just this answer that bear witness of why it is so difficult to stop. The film is conspicuously against circumcision, there are no misunderstood Western sympathisers arguing that circumcision should be allowed out of respect for a culture we do not fully understand. And Longinotto’s position is forceful since it is the victims – girls and women – who speak the case in her film.
Kim Longinotto, operating the camera herself, once again demonstrates her ability to get close to the core of the action and discussions, sometimes asking questions, but mostly getting her points across by filming internal discussions, which then disclose how matters are talked about, rather than how they are presented to a stranger asking questions. This is quite essential for our understanding of the ’mechanisms’ at stake, how narrow-minded the cultural beliefs are – how long a road the women will have to walk to change anything in the structure of the community.