A Screaming Man,or hell on earth
by Camillo de Marco
Cinema has made war one of its most enduring themes, mixing courage, fear, solidarity, and relationships between men that are transformed as a result of the ordeal. But the sheer horror of war can only be truly understood in first person.
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun went through it. Wounded in 1980 during the civil war in Chad, he fled his country and took refuge in Cameroon. 26 years later, while he was filming Dry Season [+see also:
film profile] (Grand Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Venice Film Festival), the rebels invaded N’Djamena. Six hours of combat left 300 dead.
A Screaming Man [+see also:
film profile], in the running for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, is prompted by the trauma of an entire nation in a permanent state of war, trapped in violence and at the mercy of warlords and profiteers.
Adam, played by Youssouf Djaoro, a sixty-year-old former swimming champion in Central Africa in the 60s, now has a job as a pool attendant at a fancy hotel in the capital, assisted by his son Abdel (Dioucounda Koma). When new Chinese owners take over the hotel, Adam is demoted to doorman and his son is handed his poolside job.
After working for thirty years, Adam feels envious and humiliated, and start sto see his own son as a rival. Meanwhile the rebels are moving on N'Djamena, and the government army calls on every family to make a cash contribution or else provide their children as volunteers, if of age, to repel the enemy’s advance. Despite the District Chief’s threats, Adam refuses to pay, practically forcing his son to sign up and go straight to the front.
In the film’s first haunting shot, Adam and Abdel splash in the water like two young, innocent siblings. The pool is the intimate space in which father and son can feel free and safe, far from the hell on earth fast encroaching. And it is to the water – a large river this time – that they return at their adventure’s end. The relationship between father and son, tender at first, antagonistic later on, stands for that of one entire generation which must transmit solid values to the next, so that the latter can survive in a hostile world. The dazzling cinematography (Laurente Brunet is director of photography) and skilful editing (Marie-Hélène Dozo) should make this French-Belgian co-production particularly attractive to the international film market, along with unusually powerful yet rigorously elegant scenes, such as when we see the father cross the desert in a sidecar to reach his son fighting on the front line.
(Translated from Italian)
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