May 16, 2010 / 12:12 PM / 10 years ago

Father-son film in war-torn Chad lights up Cannes

* Moving Chad film “A Screaming Man” wins admirers in Cannes

* War is omnipresent despite lack of direct action

By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France, May 16 (Reuters) - The moving story of a father’s search for a son who is drafted to fight against advancing rebel forces in Chad has won admirers at the Cannes film festival, where it is in the main competition.

Underlining how the annual cinema showcase champions low-budget productions from around the world as well as Hollywood heavyweights, “A Screaming Man” has its world premiere on Sunday a day after Woody Allen was given the same honour.

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s tale is deliberately understated, and examines what conflict means for ordinary people, and families in particular, rather than focusing on the fighting itself.

The simple story of a father and a son, laden with love as well as guilt and fear, is set against real-life violence in the African country where rebel uprisings originating in the east have undermined stability and killed hundreds in recent years.

Asked why he often focused on the relationship between father and son, Haroun told reporters after a press screening:

“This war (in Chad) is in fact perpetrated by men, it’s not women who wage war.

“It’s a kind of history handed down from father to son ... and from generation to generation. That’s why I attach such importance to the father-son relationship,” he added, speaking through an interpreter.

Haroun said the idea for A Screaming Man (Un Homme Qui Crie) originated in 2006 when he was making another film, “Daratt”, in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena.

Rebels invaded the town forcing the crew to decide whether or not to flee the fighting, and in 2008, during the shooting of “Expectations”, rebels were again on the move in Chad.


The central character is Adam, a swimming pool attendant at an upmarket N’Djamena hotel which is being taken over by new Chinese owners, reflecting the march of globalisation across Africa which brings mixed blessings in the film.

Adam, played by Youssouf Djaoro, is helped at work by his good-natured son Abdel (Diouc Koma), but economics dictate that only one can keep his job and the father is humiliatingly demoted to the post of gatekeeper.

He is forced to wear his predecessor’s ill-fitting uniform, a constant reminder of his loss of status.

The story takes a tragic turn when Abdel is forced to join the army to fight rebels advancing on the capital, and Adam, who did not have the money to buy his son’s freedom and chose not to volunteer himself in his place, is plagued with worry and guilt.

We hear little of what is happening on the front, except for a taped message Abdel sends home to his young pregnant wife.

Adam, who sees powerful figures around him shifting sides in the conflict, has little faith that God will intervene to help him or his son, and so decides to take matters into his own hands.

“He’s screaming against the silence of God, it’s not a scream against adversity,” Haroun explained. (Reporting by Mike Collett-White)

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