The acclaimed director of Daratt, Mahamat-Saleh returns with a telling
meditation of an ageing African male that has a deftness and humanity
within it, which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
Said screaming man is Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) who is a happy pool
attendant at a fancy hotel in civil war Chad. Adam shares the
duties of his job with his 20 year old son, Abdel (Diouc Koma), yet
there are fears over the future of job security owing to the investment
of Chinese money into the infrastructure of the hotel. Many
workers fear for their job, one is David (Marius Yelolo), a chef who in
the few scenes he shares with Adam gives wisdom and advice - upon
hearing the unwanted news, David says to Adam, 'the problem is we put
our fate in the hands of God'.
After this news, Adam is told he has been demoted to the role of
gatekeeper of the hotel - the man who must raise and lower the barrier
for cars and other motor vehicles - whilst Abdel has been given sole
responsibility of the pool. Hence, Adam feels embarrassed and
devalued as a man as well as a trusted worker. His role as
moneywinner is further but into question by the demands of a local
district chief who keeps pestering him for money to help with the war
effort. (It should be noted that there is never any mention or
reason given as to why Adam keeps saying he is broke and cannot
pay.) Yet the conversations with the chief lead to Adam making a
decision that will lead to a terrible act of betrayal.
Haroun has a real assuredness behind the camera - he cleverly shows a
difference between the workplace environment and the home environment;
one is vibrant, the other is still - but he does this without going to
lengths of changing the tone or colour of the palette, instead relying
upon the performances of his actors who are front and centre. A
good scene at the start shows Adam with his wife, Mariam, as they eat
food together you feel the warmth of their love, but in the background
is a television with news of the civil war ongoing. The scene
tells you two things; the personality of Adam is enhanced as a loving
husband and provider, nevertheless the civil war intrudes upon their
sanctuary, as it will do later on with more tragic consequences.
The script, also written by Haroun, asks questions about duty (to work,
to family, to your country), the idea of loyalty to the same factors
and the father and son dynamic (an ongoing trope of Haroun's previous
work). Adam is jealous of Abdel as much for his youth as for
being selected for the job of pool attendant; but once Abdel's pregnant
girlfriend, Djeneba (Djeneba Kone) appears this affection for his son
is reassessed leading to the final act of the film.
This conclusion of the film - whilst an eventual part of the narrative
- is handled deftly offering the chance of reconciliation with a
distinctness and deftness you rarely see, giving ample opportunity to
his DoP, Laurent Brunet to shoot some wonderful landscapes of the
Djaoro as Adam gives a strong central performance as he morphs from the
the life and soul of the hotel to an aged man broken by promises and
his own selfish acts. At the end a screaming man (because if the
title of the film was 'The Screaming Man' it would lose that universal
feel), wonders the plains and wading in the river. But he wonders
around in the best African film since Moolaade.
A Screaming Man was released on Friday 13th May, 2011 by Soda Pictures.