out of Five
Running time: 92
Beautifully shot and sharply written, this is a powerful and depressingly downbeat drama that is often hard to watch, although the inexpressive nature of the main character means that it's difficult to fully engage on an emotional level.
What's it all about?
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, A Screaming Man is set in civil war-torn Chad (i.e. not that long ago) and stars Youssouf Djaoro as Adam, a former swimming champion who has worked happily, alongside his 20 year-old son Abdel (Diouc Koma), as a pool attendant at a resort hotel for the last 30 years. However, when the hotel's new owner (Li Heling) demotes Adam to gatekeeper and promotes Abdel into his old job, their relationship quickly becomes strained, which upsets Adam's wife Mariam (Hadje Fatime N'Goua).
Meanwhile, with the rebels marching the streets, district chief Ahmat (Emile Abossolo M'bo) pressurises Adam to demonstrate his loyalty to the regime, whether by donating money or other means. Adam hits upon a cold-hearted solution that he thinks will solve both his problems but he's unprepared for the arrival of Abdel's pregnant 17-year-old girlfriend (Djeneba Kone) and soon regrets his actions.
Youssouf Djaoro is excellent as Adam, a quiet man who is essentially content to be one of life's observers and whose one selfish, decisive act brings devastating consequences. There's also strong support from Koma as his popular son (Abdel throws himself into pool attendant work in a markedly different way to Adam) and from Hadje Fatime N'Goua as his loving wife (the scene where they eat watermelon together is beautifully shot and genuinely moving).
The film looks stunning throughout, courtesy of cinematographer Laurent Brunet and Haroun uses long, observational takes to impressive effect. He also creates a convincing atmosphere of life going on despite day-to-day violence: there are constant helicopters overhead and the news is full of civil war propaganda and reports of unrest, but the characters seem to largely ignore it until it's too late.
The themes of the film are powerfully emotive (jealousy, family betrayal, all that good stuff), but the fact that Adam is written as such an inexpressive man makes it difficult to fully engage on an emotional level. That said, maybe that's just as well, because the tone of the film is incredibly downbeat (think Ken Loach in Africa).
A Screaming Man is a beautifully made, impressively directed and well written drama with a potentially powerfully emotive plot, though the impassive nature of the main character reduces the overall emotional impact.