Certificate - 15
Country - Chad/ France
Run- Time - 92 Minutes
Genre - Drama (Subtitled)
Awards - Canne's Special Grad Jury Prize winner
Men live a quiet life of desperation, someone famous once said, a constant scream of paranoia and worry that can not be heard by others, especially their loved ones. Women, on the other hand, are constant whine of desperation and paranoia and can let their worries go easier, but forget they are effectively dumping them on their men, more silent screams to deal with. Women say they don't mind if men cry. I say that is rot as women worry even more when men worry. Women's worse trait is leaving men when the bills can't be paid and there's a better deal to be taken elsewhere, the loss of male emancipation the theme of this silently painful Africa subtitled drama about the loss of a man/fathers meaning in life and how far he would go to get it back.
This film is really the story of those black guys we started seeing in pubs and clubs in Britain when Blair invited the world to stay here, even though it isn't that story. It's a film about Black men's pride in the chance for employment and the emancipation it offers, but pride quickly lost when you lose that status. It always makes me feel uncomfortable when you see these guys in the toilets here and they give you their patter to earn tips for a 'wash and brush up', the southern states of America in the 1960s and Aphartied South Africa coming to mind, a small payment offered to enjoy their humiliation as that's what this trade is. There's free tap right there to swill your hands after all? But what you don't realize is these guys just want to earn money, whatever it takes, that pride overtaking the loss of dignity, a degrading task and emotion something British people will never have to contemplate. This is what its like to be a black person in the world is the message of A Screaming Man.
You generally don't get to see African film of this quality make it over to Blockbusters and so a good idea to rent a recommended one if it does pop up, as was the case with A Screaming Man, unless you rent from those shops that sell 'Nollywood' (Nigerian Hollywood).
Shot by acclaimed director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun the film centers around present day Chad in the ongoing non fictional 40 - year civil conflict, the rebels overthrowing the government to become the government and so on and so on until the preset day wreck Chad is. As the budget was pretty tight Haroun uses mostly locals as the cast and extras that have bee involved I that war and it works to great effect as they carry Chad's woes in their expressions on screen to earn the film authentic atmosphere.
Youssouf Djaoro ... Adam Ousmane 'Champion'
Dioucounda Koma ... Abdel Ousmane
Emile Abossolo M'bo ... Le chef de quartier
Hadje Fatime N'Goua ... Mariam
Marius Yelolo ... David
Djénéba Koné ... Djénéba Koné
Heling Li ... Mme Wang
Rémadji Adèle Ngaradoumbaye ... Souad
John Mbaiedoum ... Etienne
Graying middle-aged Adam Ousmane (Youssouf Djaoro) works in the up market N'Djamena Hotel in downtown N'Djamena, the Chad capital, getting the job as a lifeguard and pool attendant off the back of his celebrated feats in the national swimming team all those years ago, his nickname Champion! His son Abdel (Dioucounda Koma) also works there, dad getting him the job with that clout. Although Adam is a married man of little means he loves his job and very proud to serve the mostly western crowd of affluent and important guests, plenty of UN soldiers hanging out on the pool terrace and bar incase they get shot at the nearby and inconvenient African republic warzone they are supposed to be quelling.
When the hotel is taken over by Chinese owners they quickly demote the much older Adam to the demeaning post of gateman at the front entrance and promote the more youthful Abdel up to his old position as pool man, causing great anxiety in the family home and the loss of pride for dad, not speaking to his son or wife Mariam (Hadje Fatime N'Goua) because of the blow to his masculinity. This job was his world and the pil for his numbness on the outside as the war closes in on the city.
But dads loss of pride becomes vengeful towards his son, callously informing the local government chief (Emile Abossolo M'bo), who is forever pressuring fathers like Adam to hand over their young Chadians to fight in the civil war, that he has his permission to conscript son Abdel, a desperate act to get his job and so pride back. But this has repercussions, none more so than when Abdels' pregnant girlfriend (Djénéba Koné) shows up at the family home asking where her father to be is, currently under fire in the warzone.
It's good stuff guys. With not too many subtitles to irritate and plenty of descriptive narratives and neat camera work playing with your eyes and mind this makes for an above average and atmospheric foreign film, as most are that make it to the U.K. It's the log silences and facial expressions that make the movie. Youssouf Djaoro is excellent in the lead and his decent as a father struggling to keep his masculine role and control in the family expresses pretty much every mans emotions on that journey and so you pull for him. Men generally have no choice on the paternal role as it's expected of them, especially in macho Africa and so when it erodes it's often a crushing time for the ego. That central emotional premise is enough to keep you interested in the pathos texture here.
I think they could have made more social comment on the civil war and China's increasing role in Africa and the characters certainly needed fleshing out, the female roles very two dimensional, more evidence of that African male culture on show. I don't think I have ever seen a film from this part of the world with a powerful mature female role in, even though it's the women who walk ten miles to get the water and cook the food. Saying that the background role of the women in the film allow Youssouf Djaoro to take control of it and express that man alone emotion that is crucial for this to work.
It's very much for foreign film aficionados only and every inch the mood piece. There are some nice things explored here and the film looks and feels right for the low budget and subject matter. Indeed, when they filmed in some of the areas partly controlled by the rebels the crew came under attack, the perils of Africa filmmaking and living in Chad seen in the actors pensive faces throughout. Interesting and emotive stuff folks...
Imdb.com 6.8/10.0 (640 votes)
Metacritc.com - 71% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 89% critic's approval
Empire Magazine - 'Beautifully understated, Haroun gives his story room to breathe and the tenderness to touch the heart. A thoughtful tale of fathers and sons'.
The Scotsman - 'It's a quietly devastating film, aided greatly by a haunting performance from Djaoro'
The Telegraph - 'Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's movie... shows the quiet desperation that result from inner and outer conflicts.
The NY Times - 'deeply personal and strikingly original'
Huffington Post - 'A beautifully photographed tale of betrayal, A Screaming Man nevertheless turns on an improbable transformation by the main character'.