A Screaming Man

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With heart-breaking themes and a heart-rending final scene, “A Screaming Man” (Un Homme qui crie) tells a tale of family joys and woes, and tells it simply and without intrusive comment. Adam and Abdel are father and son, working as pool attendants at the same hotel in N’Djamena, Chad. Times are difficult in the country with armed rebels threatening the seemingly peaceful existence of civilian life.

The first strain to weigh on the family is the demotion of 54 year old Adam to gatekeeper since he is getting on in years (at 54!!) but the implication is that the hotel cannot afford two pool attendants, and the 20 year old Abdel gets his father’s job and their relationship changes. The older Adam feels humiliated as he loses out to his son and as he takes a position that is seen as more menial and the strain is telling.

At the same time financial constraints play on Adam’s mind. All citizens are expected to make some kind of contribution to the war effort against the rebels, but with a diminished income Adam cannot pay in spite of the intense pressure being applied by the district chief. In the absence of cash payment is required in some other form, and Adam’s son is conscripted to serve in the army, and a safe return is from the front is unlikely.

Having been unable to protect Abdel from conscription and an almost certain death, Adam is tortured by guilt, especially as no-one knows that Adam more or less gave Abdel up to the army to save himself having to suffer. The violence of civil war develops and people begin to pack up and leave the country. When the hotel has to close because the staff have run away Adam takes matters into his own hands to redeem himself and rescue his son, and travels by motorcycle to the camp where Abdel lies seriously injured. He sneaks his son out of the camp and into the sidecar of his motorcycle and heads back home.

The screaming is all done quietly, internally, and is done perhaps on behalf of the entire population of Chad, maybe on behalf of all oppressed people, all victims everywhere. But it is a screaming marked by quiet dignity in the face of terrible suffering.

The story is related simply and without ornament. An excellent, wonderfully shot piece of cinema, a much-needed break from American/European reliance on special effects, big names and unlikely sexual scenarios.

Mahamat-Saleh Haroun writes and directs, with Youssouf Djaoro as Adam and Dioucoundo Koma as Abdel.

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