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“I wanted to focus on the private life of the refugees”

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Mahamat-Saleh Haroun • Director

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- TORONTO 2017: We caught up with Chad’s Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, whose new film, A Season in France, has just world-premiered in the Special Presentations section

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun  • Director

Celebrated Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s seventh feature film, A Season in France [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
film profile
]
, has just been world-premiered in the Special Presentations section of the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival. Cineuropa had the chance to talk to him about the background to his story, his characters and the political aspect of the movie.

Cineuropa: What was your inspiration for narrating this story? Is it based on true events?
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
: It is indeed based on true events. You know, I come from Chad, where we had a civil war raging for a long time. I left my country because of that, and I became a wanderer. So I can say that I know a little bit about the situation of being a refugee. In France, I met several asylum seekers who were waiting for an answer. A Season in France is inspired by the story of a Chadian refugee who, after receiving a negative response from France, immolated himself. I hope he did not die.

Could you give us more details about the characters of Abbas and Carole? Why did you want to create this couple?
Well, Abbas and Carole used to work in the same market, they are neighbours, and they fell in love. Carole’s parents were also refugees; they came to France from Poland during World War II. In a way, Carole found the story of her own parents in Abbas’ story, and that brought them closer.

Why did you decide to avoid talking about the war but focus on the consequences in a peaceful country like France?
I did not want to talk of war, because showing the most visible and spectacular side is the easy way of doing it. I wanted to focus on the private life of refugees and show how devastating it is, especially when someone has children.

Regarding the asylum court, do you think that a political or legislative system can be as disastrous as a war for the refugees?
Yes, of course. I think that the political system is a disaster because it takes a long time for refugees to get a response to their request. In the meantime, they are destabilised, living in a kind of no man’s land, under the shadow of a death sentence.

You always co-produce with France, but this time you decided to shoot your film there. How was that experience?
The experience was good. I worked with professional actors and technicians, which makes things even easier, in contrast with the situation in Chad. So it was a great experience.

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