"Their own images of Africa”: The cinema of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, left, in Bye Bye Africa (1999).

By Ashley Clark

Although the cinema of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is actually far less well-known in America than the idea should be, the Chadian filmmaker is actually one of the major contemporary filmmakers of the past two decades, crafting a remarkable body of absorbing, experimental, as well as politically resonant work. inside the career-spanning series Mahamat-Saleh Haroun: Modern Griot—which opens with his latest film, the haunting, immigration-themed drama A Season in France (2017)—BAMcinématek is actually proud to present the first major brand-new York retrospective of This particular trailblazing artist’s work in over 10 years April 20—25.

The enduring power of Haroun’s cinema is actually rooted in his own experiences. Having left his home country as a young man inside the 1980s as the idea was being rent asunder by a brutal civil war, Haroun made his way to France, working as a journalist in Bordeaux before settling in Paris with only one thing in his pocket—the address of a Parisian film school. As Haroun explained to The Guardian, “My story sounds like fiction, although the idea’s true. the idea was like I was a homeless person, as well as This particular school is actually where I belonged.” Haroun’s affinity with refugee life clearly informs A Season in France, screening for the 1st time in brand-new York at BAM. This particular timely as well as understated film stars the brilliant Eriq Abouney as Abbas, a high-school teacher as well as father-of-two coming from the Central African Republic who flees his war-torn country for France, where he falls in love using a French woman (Sandrine Bonnaire) who offers a roof for him as well as his family.

Youssouf Djaoro in Screaming Man (2010). Credit: Photofest

The tenderness as well as insight which characterize A Season in France are plainly apparent inside the earliest film inside the program—1995’s Sotigui Kouyaté: a Modern Griot, coming from which BAMcinématek’s retrospective borrows its title. Running at just under an hour although dense with joy as well as texture, the idea is actually a documentary study of the eponymous—as well as at This particular point sadly late—Malian actor as well as musician, who became a favorite of, as well as frequent collaborator with, the legendary theater as well as film director Peter Brook. When casting The Mahabharata, Brook saw footage of Kouyaté as well as remarked: “I saw one shot of a tree as well as a man as tall as well as slender as This particular tree, with an extraordinary presence as well as quality.”

If Haroun’s portrait of Kouyaté established him as an expert observer as well as interlocutor, 1999’s remarkable docudrama Bye Bye Africa marked him out as an experimental filmmaking force to be reckoned with. the idea stars Haroun as a thinly-veiled style of himself: a Chadian film director at This particular point exiled in France. When, after many years, he heads home for the death of his mother, he also discovers the faltering state of the Chadian film industry due to the shuttering of cinemas as well as the proliferation of video rooms. Speaking of his motivation for the film, as well as pointing to the wider impact of his output, Haroun told journalist David Walsh, “The present dilemma is actually that will a lot of African countries don’t contain the money to produce movies, so inside the French-speaking countries every film is actually produced with money coming coming from France. as well as when somebody gives you money, you know, he or she is actually expecting something in return. He or she has an idea, perhaps a fantasy of Africa. African filmmakers want or need their own images of Africa.”

Abouna (2002). Credit: Photofest

Haroun’s critical, carefully-rendered images of Africa manifested in a subsequent string of stunning Chad-set dramas often infused with hints of Shakespearean tragedy, as well as threaded together by themes of fate, masculinity in peril, as well as economic precarity. Abouna (2002) is actually a deceptively simple coming-of-age fable which follows two brothers finding their way inside the entire world after their parents abandon them. The quietly intense parable Dry Season (2006), set inside the wake of Chad’s long civil war, again centers on compromised youth, unraveling the story of a teenage boy who sets out to avenge his father’s murder. Arguably Haroun’s best-known film is actually the obvious modern classic A Screaming Man (2010)—a father-son tale of immense as well as galling power, as well as the winner of that will year’s Cannes Jury Prize—the idea features one of the greatest ever closing shots. In 2013 Haroun played in Palme d’Or competition at Cannes with the unclassifiable, unpredictable Grigris, which was the first film to be funded by the Chadian government. The film features a beguiling performance coming from non-actor Souleymane Démé as a dancer as well as photographer’s assistant who becomes inveigled in a petrol-smuggling plot.

In 2016, Haroun returned to documentary with the wrenching Hissen Habre: A Chadian Tragedy, which sheds light on one of the darkest corners of Chadian history—the brutal reign of the eponymous dictator infamous for unleashing horrific violence as well as human rights abuses upon a generation, before being jailed for life in 2016. A year later, Haroun was appointed Minister of Culture, Art as well as Tourism by Chadian president, Idriss Deby, yet was sacked in February This particular year, with no official reason given. In an interview with Jeune Afrique magazine shortly before the decision was taken, Haroun said, “I did not become a minister to wash away Chad’s memory.” For Haroun as well as for his cinema, then, the personal as well as political are indivisible, as well as his stark, unadorned portraits of Chad are laid out for the entire world to see. Don’t miss This particular rare chance to take them in at BAM Rose Cinemas, on the big screen, where they should be experienced.

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun: Modern Griot comes to BAMcinématek Apr 20—25.

Ashley Clark is actually Senior Programmer, BAMcinématek.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

"Their own images of Africa”: The cinema of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

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