The Day I Will Never Forget

2002
Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by Richard McKerrow and Paul Hamman
Directed by Kim Longinotto
VHS, color, 90 min.
College - Adult
African Studies, Women's Studies, Multicultural Studies, Sociology, Health Sciences


Reviewed by Monique Threatt, Indiana University, Herman B Wells Library, Bloomington, IN

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 2/11/2004

This feature-length documentary takes its name from a poem written by Fouzia, an intelligent nine-year-old African girl, who recites and describes for the camera her horrific and psychologically damaging circumcision. Kim Longinotto (Divorce Iranian Style, Gaea Girls, Runaway), a prolific award-winning filmmaker, examines female genital mutilation (FGM) as a rite of passage within traditional African culture and religion. The Day I Will Never Forget is indeed a film that is hard to forget. Filmed primarily in and around Nairobi, Kenya, the film offers a candid perspective from both the young girls who are coerced, tricked or forced to undergo female circumcision, and the elders who perform them.

African girls as young as eight-years-old, undergo female circumcision as a rite of passage into womanhood. This ritual also guarantees that the girl will be a virgin for her future husband. However, tribal mid-wives are oftentimes ill-equipped to perform the procedure which involves cutting off the clitoris and sewing the vagina shut. Using unsanitary needles, razors and aspirin to dull the pain, many girls do not heal properly. A hazard of this procedure can involve shock, hemorrhaging, abscesses, sterility, urinary, and menstruation problems. Such is the tragic story of Simalo, a young African girl who is forced by her mother to undergo a circumcision that goes horribly wrong. She is then hurriedly forced into marriage and made to sleep with her husband the same night of her painful circumcision. After two days of marriage, Simalo is able to escape the abuse, but she is left with emotional and physical scars that will last forever.

Social worker Ndaisi Kwinga and Nurse Fardhosa Al Mohamed offer counsel to young girls and women about the dangers and effects of female circumcision. In what could be called a landmark case, school officials at the Maraquet School seek and win an injunction against parents to cease female circumcisions. However, the parents are not very happy about this injunction. They call the children disobedient for defying tribal customs.

The graphic depictions in the film are hard to watch at times. The procedure is analogous to watching a child being tortured and raped, and being unable to prevent it. Speakers include the Thaii Fraternity of Kenya, a traditionalist religious African group who advocate “female clitorodectomy” and whose beliefs are steeped in tribal customs.

To read more about women’s issues and FMG, visit the Equality Now, Amnesty International website. For accompany reading material, try Alice Walker’s novel Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992) which provides graphic details about FMG.

Highly recommended as an instructional resource for discussion and study in African studies, Women’s studies, Multicultural studies, Sociology and Psychology.

In Somali, Swahili, Masaai, Kalenjin with English subtitles

Awards

  • Valladolid International Film Festival - Time of History Jury Awards Second Prize
  • IDFA, International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam - Amnesty International DOEN Award
  • Tursak Film Festival, Istanbul - Best International Documentary
  • Viewpoint Documentary Film Festival - Best Film
  • Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival - Best Documentary UK Spotlight
  • Festival International de Films de Femmes de Creteil - Best Documentary
  • Hong Kong International Film Festival - Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Documentary - Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Documentary
  • Torino Women's Film Festival - Best Documentary, 2nd Prize
  • Britspotting, British Independent Film Festival, Berlin - Best Documentary