By Don Simpson | August 2, 2011
Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Writer: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Starring: Youssouf Djaoro, Diouc Koma, Emile Abossolo M’bo, Hadje Fatime N’Goua, Marius Yelolo
Upon reflection, water is the most important element in Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s A Screaming Man. Adam (Youssouf Djaoro), a 60-year old former swimming champion, and his son Abdel (Diouc Koma) work as pool attendants at a N’Djamena hotel. Haroun’s film opens as Adam and Abdel are immersed in the hotel pool after hours, competing to determine who can remain underwater the longest. It goes without saying that the pool serves as a refuge from the harsh Chad desert for the posh hotel guests; it is also an escape from the harsh realities of the world in which Adam and Abdel exist. By the close of A Screaming Man, water also becomes an element of spiritual cleansing — like Baptismal waters — offering comfort, forgiveness and a return.
Adam begins the film brimming with confidence, envisioning himself as the personal and professional mentor for Abdel and taking tremendous pride in his elevated rank in the hierarchical structure of the hotel staff. When the hotel is privatized and taken over by Chinese owners, Adam’s confidence is shattered as he is forced to relinquish his prized position to Abdel. Adam goes from prancing proudly around the pool dressed all in white, to frantically darting around the entry gates in an ill-fitting costume.
Visibly growing increasingly resentful of Abdel, we sense a startlingly profound tension as Adam’s machismo self boils beneath his incredibly stoic surface. Also chipping away at the emotional frailty of Adam’s state of mind, Adam finds himself unable to contribute to his government’s war effort; a demeaning situation that humiliates him as a traitor to his government which appears to be crumbling at the hands of rebel forces. Pushed to his breaking point, Adam takes an extreme action that practically cripples him with guilt and shame from the very moment it comes to fruition. Adam promptly sets out on a journey to regain his moral fortitude and make things whole again.
The slow and tranquil pacing not only works in clever juxtaposition to the film’s title, but it also allows A Screaming Man to act as a profound meditation on social insecurity, poverty, generational conflict, family bonds, and the detrimental effects of globalization and privatization on third world economies. All the while, Djaoro’s internalized and emotionally toned-down performance is nothing short of riveting. Really, A Screaming Man is worth the price of admission just to watch Djaoro’s transcendent portrayal of a father torn first by jealousy and desperation then by guilt.
The fourth feature film by Haroun — Chad’s only prominent filmmaker — A Screaming Man won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2010. Film Movement recently released A Screaming Man on DVD accompanied by a short film by Haroun, Expectations.