Lingui, The Sacred Bonds is an inspiring story about female solidarity and empowerment. Yet I can’t help but feel that its script would have been rejected in Hollywood for the simple reason that it was written by a man. In Chad, on the other hand, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is the nation’s only active filmmaker, and the project was greeted enthusiastically by women who have seen Lingui, The Sacred Bonds.
Amina (Achouackh Abakar Souleymane), ostracized by her family because she became pregnant outside of marriage, lives with her 15-year-old daughter, Maria (Rihane Khalil Alio). She supports herself by pulling steel wires out of old tires and forming them into metal stoves, which she sells on the street. Maria is a popular and successful high school student. However, she becomes pregnant and is expelled from school. She tells her mother that she wants an abortion, which was illegal in Chad until 2017 and is still not legal “upon request.”
A devote Muslim, Amina is verbally bullied by the local imam, who insists that she attend services more frequently and share her worries and concerns with him, which she most definitely does not do.
While mother and daughter search for someone to perform the abortion, and the money to pay for it, Amina is visited unexpectedly by her younger sister, Fanta, who has a problem of her own. Her daughter is expected to undergo female genital mutilation, and Fanta does not want this. As it happens, Amina, while looking for someone who performs abortions, has encountered a midwife who performs fake clitorectomies.
The imam tells Amina that the mosque provides “sacred bonds” for its members and with God. But Haroun makes clear that the real sacred bonds are among women who unselfishly help each other. The term “lingui” in Chad implies mutual aid, a solidarity that allows people to survive and improve their lives.