Tuesday, July 03, 2007


2002, Chad, directed by Mahamat Saleh Haroun

Mahamat Saleh Haroun's Abouna plays like two different films: the first hour or so is a carefully realized portrait of the coming of age of two young boys, forced to look out for each other in the absence of a father, and with a mother increasingly overburdened by the simple demands of getting by. There's an abrupt shift in the final twenty minutes, however, as Haroun introduces a series of inter-related ellipses, interspersed with fades to black, with an accumulation of plot that threatens to overwhelm the film (the revelations come so fast that there's no opportunity for the characters to credibly react to life-altering developments).

Like his contemporary, and close colleague, Abderrahmane Sissako, Haroun is most interested in observing the delicate fabric of daily life; in his opening hour, he allows events to unfold at an unhurried pace, his camera attracted to bright patches of colour - an orange shirt, a book cover, a startling yellow dress. His mobile camera tracks across courtyards and behind beads, but also observes his characters in quiet moments, like a mother's tender embrace of her child, and gives a vivid sense of a particular neighborhood in N'Djamena. His use of music, too, is intensely evocative, and one brief shot evokes the wondrous opening segment of Nanni Moretti's Caro diario where that film's director-star weaves through the deserted streets of Rome on his Vespa, the soundtrack swelling as if the city belonged to him alone.

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