A Screaming Man
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
While news of Chad's escalating civil war trickles in over the radio, and all manner of aircraft sound ominously overhead, Adam (Youssouf Djaoro), dressed in tennis whites, serenely tends to the swimming pool at a posh N'Djamena hotel. Champ, as everyone admiringly calls the former star swimmer, boasts of having been the first pool attendant in the country. But new hotel ownership replaces Adam with his energetic son and protégé, Abdel (Diouc Koma), sending the 55-year-old to wrangle cars as gatekeeper. Writer-director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun tracks slowly toward Adam as he sits outside his guardhouse post, culminating in a close-up that hammers home the wounded pride of the athlete.
Still smarting from his workplace humiliation, Adam neglects to make his mandatory war-effort contribution, and sits on his hands as Abdel gets forcibly drafted; Adam returns to the pool—skimming its surface, even as the conflict nears, and he's the only hotel employee to report to work—but muses off-duty about the availability of God. Then Abdel's pregnant girlfriend, Djénéba (Djénéba Kone), turns up; Adam and his wife, Mariam (Hadje Fatime N'Goua), seem reluctant to apprise her of the situation, but her presence in the house activates Adam's remorse. This guilt about Abdel's absence never seems entirely his own—sparked more by Djénéba's sad singing than any already-roiling internal conflict—and so the setting-things-right conclusion doesn't come off as devastating as it's meant to.
A Screaming Man, which won third-place bronze at last year's Cannes, marks Haroun's fourth feature, and much of it is masterful. Everything unassumingly descends into turmoil: At one point, rambunctious U.N. peacekeepers have the pool to themselves; later, as everyone around him flees on foot in the other direction, Adam tries to squeeze by on his motorbike. But too many doubts linger about Champ: Does he want his son back because he loves him and regrets selling him out, or because Abdel was just another part of the status quo Adam tries so desperately to preserve?
Opens April 13 at Film Forum