The Austin Chronicle

Warrior Marks

Not rated, 54 min. Directed by Pratibha Parmar. Starring Alice Walker, Richelle.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 14, 1994

Ouch. When I was in school, much time was spent in seminars discussing topics like castration anxiety and its contributions to the growth of civilization. It was a literary metaphor, a psychological principle, a biological imperative, a philosophical abstraction. Then the past year brought us the public severance of the Bobbitt marriage along with an avalanche of party jokes and reflections on the rights of the battered and abused. But who amongst us ever talked about the castration anxieties of women, the very real genital mutilation that is practiced on women every day in nations throughout the world? Practices that include clitoridectomies and vaginal suturing and excruciating mutilations that keep young girls and adult women subservient, compliant, and in pain for much of their lives? Practices that are mandated by cultural traditions, religions, and economic systems? Practices that are crossing oceans and continents and cultures with the spread of immigration? Warrior Marks is the most articulate and provocative film to ever address the subject. Executive-produced and presented by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and directed by Pratibha Parmar (A Place of Rage, Khush), the movie is a passionate exploration of these contemporary, worldwide customs. Inspired to inform people abut the practice of female genital mutilation after studying the subject while writing her recent novel Possessing the Secret of Joy, Walker spearheaded this movie and also authored another nonfiction book, Warrior Marks, to accompany it. Head-on, Walker tackles the taboo against criticizing and meddling in other cultures' ancient traditions and customs. But Walker and Parmar eloquently demonstrate how the practice oppresses and tortures women. Amazingly, though the topic seethes with pain, the film is quite lyrical and informative. Walker's personal commentary and statistics are intercut both with moving interviews with women from Senegal, Mali, and other countries, as well as a dance performance by Richelle that elegantly expresses the more excruciating aspects of the customs. Unlike some of their male counterparts who become squeamish at the mere notion of castration, it's good to see some women taking an active and self-protective stance against the global spread of female genital mutilation.

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