Published Mar 11, 2011Seeing that the Chadian civil war is ongoing, involving curfews, drafts and Sudanese cross-border raids with Darfurian refugees and Chadian villagers killed if resisting, it's unsurprising that A Screaming Man posits war as fluid and quotidian. But what does come as a pleasant surprise is that this story of petty resentment and regret is a quiet, thoughtful human tale rather than something overly political and didactic.
It exists on the periphery of the conflict, set primarily within the gated confines of a posh resort where aging swimming champion Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) is removed from his post at the pool to man the entry gate. Occasional glimpses of marching soldiers and snippets of news reports buzz in the background, as our morally ambiguous lead character mourns the loss of job as identity, begrudging and envying his son, Abdel (Dioucounda Koma), for his youth and taking his place.
What's uniquely compelling about this parable of male identity anguish is how gradually it views the military presence, from distant and not of concern to urgent and vital, mirroring Adam's realizations of perspective and petty jealousies. The process is quite organic, never spelling out intentions or creating any pedagogical contrivances, initially, instead having the characters react logically to the changes unfolding around them, such as an imposed curfew.
Director Mahamet-Saleh Haroun smartly keeps the pacing slow and the visuals still, capturing each environment from afar, when not closing in on a candid moment to define feelings through character expressions and reactions, as opposed to words. This restraint allows us to observe the geography with more objectivity than is often allowed in film, simultaneously lingering on the psychically struggling Adam long after he has let his guard down.
It's just unfortunate that in an effort to wrap up each storyline and put a tidy bow on the primary character arc this otherwise impressive Chadian import falls apart in its third act. The natural flow is interrupted by unlikely conveniences, reminding us that even though politics aren't being preached, there's still a lesson we are intended to learn. (Film Movement)