Madame Brouette

I recently watched Madame Brouette, which is a joint project between Senegal and Quebec filmmakers.

Spoiler warning.

The summary was intriguing.  It described Mati as a “spunky street vendor … who defies the male-centered traditions of her culture with hopes of leading a dignified life.  Having escaped from a violent marriage, she dreams of rising above the world of abuse that surrounds her by opening a cafe.  Fate steps in when she meets and falls in love with Naago, a smooth-talking charmer who happens to be a crooked cop.  When the neighbourhood awakens to the sound of bullets and Naago is found dead, all fingers point to Mati.   Part detective story, part fable”

The director said in the notes that he made this film to discover why some women stay with abusive men for 35 years while others stay for 2 months.  His film had his own answers, but I think he would have learned more if he had talked to credible social workers, women’s shelters, or even some women in that situation.  I am sure he didn’t because his answers don’t stand up to reality.

His main answer to that question is that some women don’t find out their abusive partners are terrible people right away.  To demonstrate that, Mati didn’t discover her lover was cheating on her, extorting prostitutes, and willing to kill innocent children to make money right away. When she found out, she tried to break up with him.

The filmmaker did have other answers to the question.  Mati’s best friend was in an abusive relationship where she was regularly beaten by her husband.  Mati charges in, confronts the huge angry man, and walks away with her friend.  Her friend just needed a place to stay and couldn’t leave until Mati offered.  This friend then is mostly cheerful and supportive for the rest of the movie, regardless of the fact that her children are still at her abusive husband’s place.  Many women (and some men) stay in horrible domestic situations if their children can’t leave with them.  I couldn’t believe this scenario.

The other thing I found really disturbing was how men and women were portrayed in the movie.  Mati was delightful.  I liked her, I wanted to be more like her and have her around, but I could not relate to her.  She wasn’t flawed enough to be human.  If women were really like her, I could understand when many men say they can’t get women since I couldn’t get her.   But, women are not either angels or demons.  We’re all a mix of everything.   The only woman who seemed realistic was a prostitute, but I don’t think she was supposed to be seen as the most human.

The men were all portrayed as monsters – every single one, except for the 9? year old neighbour whom I still found disturbing.  I think the filmmaker could only justify women leaving male partners if the men were absolutely despicable.   Mati’s friend’s husband was always abusive and never once showed himself capable of caring for his children or even trying a honeymoon stage to get his wife back. Mati’s father was a stereotypical Muslim patriarch who took held tight to his male privilege in exchange for common sense and compassion.  The crooked cop was so revolting that he watched a gang of older men attempt to rape Mati’s 7? year old daughter when the daughter came to inform Naago that Mati was giving birth to his child.

The neighbour boy, who rescues the daughter from the attempted rape, is the one male who isn’t shown as brutal and dishonest.  He claims he loves the daughter and it doesn’t matter if the daughter loves him back.  He will spend his life taking care of her anyways.  This frightened me.  That a 9 year old might think that he can pick a girl to devote his life to whether she wants it or not isn’t so big a concern.  That a film director would think this is the solution for battered women shows that he does not understand domestic violence at all.  A man who refuses to listen to a woman and does not care if she wants his attention or affection has already began the steps down into domestic violence.

I would have stopped watching the film if they didn’t have a musical group that showed up singing about partridges for most scene changes.  They were fantastic and did contain men who didn’t hurt anyone so I take back my previous comment.

And the murderer wasn’t a big surprise although the ending was.  It shouldn’t have been, since the song about the partridges actually did have something to do with the movie after all.

3 thoughts on “Madame Brouette

  1. Lorena says:

    This is scary, that not even the people who are trying to help understand the problem. That’s the issue, I believe. For as long as the majority of people in power are male, the problem will remain, because they just don’t understand.

    But we will improve, if ever so slowly.

    • prairienymph says:

      I think part of the problem is that some people who are male are told or tell themselves that they can’t understand. Bullshit. All they need is a little respect, empathy, imagination and communication skills to understand anyone, including women. I’ve heard writers say it is easier to write a character of a different gender but a similar socio-economic status and culture than the same gender and different SEC or culture.
      Of course, many of the people in power have a vested interest in not understanding. It saves them from guilt and action.

  2. David says:

    couldn’t agree more.

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