(In French and Arabic with English subtitles)
This October, during Black History Month in the UK, Africa in Motion (Scotland), Afrika Eye (Bristol), the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF), Film Africa (London) and Watch-Africa Cymru (Wales) have all come together to provide an opportunity to watch some of the best African films of the past decade online, for a small donation, at wearetano.org. The films have been screened consecutively, each for a 2-day period, and the event continues until next week, so there’s still time to take a look. The programme ends on 20th October, while the Africa in Motion film festival (www.africa-in-motion.org.uk) runs until the end of November.
I checked out the sites, and watched A Screaming Man (Un homme qui crie), a film from Chad that was showing on demand. Released in 2010, the film was written and directed by auteur writer-director Mahmat-Saleh Haroun (himself seriously wounded in civil conflict), who also wrote and directed the much-acclaimed 2002 Chadian film Abouna (Our Father). A Screaming Man is a modern-day tragedy of Shakespearean levels, set during the civil war of 2005 to 2010. It won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, the first time that a director from Chad had entered the main Cannes competition.
The story follows Adam (played compellingly by Youssouf Djaoro), an ageing former swimming champion (nicknamed Champ), who has been contentedly working as a pool attendant at an upmarket hotel in the capital, N’Djamena.
However, his life takes a turn for the worse when new owners move in, and he is humiliatingly replaced by his vigorous, fun-loving son Abdel, and demoted to operating the gates that let cars in and out of the complex.
Meanwhile, reports of rebel incursions are intensifying, and the local authorities demand support from the citizenry, whether that be money or suitably aged volunteers for combat. Adam thus finds himself in an impossible situation, and from that point on the emotional tension of the film gradually intensifies.
In many ways a morality tale, as well as an examination of the experience of absolute powerlessness, the film closes with a quotation from the poet Aimé Césaire:
“Beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of miseries is not a proscenium, a screaming man is not a dancing bear“