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A SCREAMING MAN (director/writer: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun; cinematographer: Laurent Brunet; editor: Marie Hélène Dozo; music: Wasis Diop/with songs by Djénéba Koné; cast: Youssouf Djaoro (Adam Ousmane), Diouc Koma (Abdel), Emil Abossolo M’Bo (District Chief), Hadjé Fatimé N’Goua (Mariam), Marius Yelolo (David, cook), Djénéba Koné (Djeneba), Li Heling (Mrs. Wang), Rémadji Adèle Ngaradoumbaye (Souad), John Mbaiedoum (Etienne, gatekeeper), Sylvain Mbaikoubou (Masra, new cook); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Florence Stern; Film Movement; 2010-Chad/France/Belgium-in French and Arabic with English subtitles)
“Engrossing arty melodrama that brilliantly blends together a tragic political and psychological story set in modern-day Chad.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fifty-something Chad filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun(“Bye Bye Africa“/”Abouna“/”Daratt“) writes and directs this engrossing arty melodrama that brilliantly blends together a tragic political and psychological story set in modern-day Chad.

In his youth, in 1965, Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) was a champion competitive swimmer, and ever since goes by the nickname ‘Champ.’ For the last 30 years the now 55-year-old Adam has been a pool attendant at an upscale Chad resort hotel, working a job he loves. His admiring 17-year-old son Abdel (Diouc Koma) is hired to assist dad at the pool. Adam’s wife Mariam (Hadjé Fatimé N’Goua) prides herself as a caring mother, loving wife and good cook. Problems arise when a Chinese firm buys the hotel and places as their rep the Chinese Mrs. Wang (Li Heling) as the boss of the hotel’s daily operations. She fires Adam’s best friend, the aging cook (Marius Yelolo), without giving him a chance to prove himself, and humiliates the proud Adam by demoting him to be the gatekeeper while keeping his son as pool attendant.

Meanwhile Chad is faced with an escalating civil war, a seemingly endless one, and the government authorities demand the population prove their loyalty by donating money or encourage draft age family members to volunteer to fight the rebels. After harassed by the corrupt government local district head, who calls himself Chief (Emil Abossolo M’Bo), a sneaky vermin who skims money from donations into his pockets, the resentful Adam in a weak moment succumbs and gives up his son to the draft. Adam thereby gets back his old pool job. One day a young bar singer from Mali, Djeneba (Djénéba Koné), shows up at the house of Abdel and informs his mother that she’s her son’s girlfriend and is pregnant. Invited to live in Abdel’s room, Adam realizes he made a bad mistake and is out of his depths dealing with a changing world he doesn’t understand. There seems to be no way to correct his mistake, as the war worsens, the hotel loses its tourist trade, and Abdel is placed in a dangerous position fighting on the front and fears for his life.

There’s impending doom for both Chad and Adam’s family, as the war gets more violent and Adam’s family is trapped in it. The father’s betrayal of his son becomes a Greek tragedy that gets played out with ample conviction. It’s a pic that leaves haunting scars on its hero, a good person who under duress made a bad decision that can’t be corrected and because of his flawed character must pay a heavy price. Adam’s walk on the dark side is something profound and is acted and told in such a natural and unsentimental way it sent chills up my spine.

The African director credits Ozu as his strongest influence, and shoots a pic that I believe Ozu would like very much.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”