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Return to Belaye


"Some secrets can never be shared, like what your husband learned in the Sacred Forest. You can read books, make assumptions, and try to imagine things, but you can never get confirmation." "Asking too many questions is considered impolite. Some things are simply 'nini.' That means forbidden in Jola."

In RETURN TO BELAYE: A RITE OF PASSAGE, filmmaker Amy Flannery describes her husband's return to his African village where he is initiated into manhood. Now a resident of Washington, D.C., Papis Goudiaby went back to Senegal in the summer of 1999. He spent two weeks in the Sacred Forest with his peers to learn the secrets of the Jola tribe and the responsibilities of manhood.

A week of intense celebration leads up to the initiates' entrance into the Sacred Forest. Harkening back to ancient warrior traditions, the men demonstrate bravery and invulnerability by slashing their bodies with knives and firing homemade cannons. Dressed in colorful costumes, the villagers dance and sing.

 It's a tough ordeal for the initiates and agonizing for Flannery, who wavers between feelings of alienation and angst while her husband goes through the grueling ritual.  More than just an anthropological documentary, Return to Belaye is an honest and intimate cross-cultural love story.