Monday, August 29, 2011

DVD Review: A Screaming Man

A Screaming Man ** ½
Directed by: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
Written by: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Starring: Youssouf Djaoro (Adam Ousmane 'Champion'), Dioucounda Koma (Abdel Ousmane), Emile Abossolo M'bo (Le chef de quartile), Hadje Fatime N'Goua (Mariam), Marius Yelolo (David), Djénéba Koné (Djénéba Koné), Heling Li (Mme Wang), Rémadji Adèle Ngaradoumbaye (Souad), John Mbaiedoum (Etienne).

A Screaming Man has an interesting title, considering the main character, Adam (Youssoud Djaoro) never screams in the film. He is a character who keeps everything bottled up inside himself – never letting anyone really in to see who he really is. Perhaps he doesn’t even know who he really is. He so values his routine, that has become accustomed to for more than 30 years, that he essentially gives up everything important to him in an attempt to maintain it. His country, along with his family, is crashing down around him, but all he cares about is maintaining his job at the pool of a lush hotel.

Adam was once the North African swimming champ back in the 1960s – and he has coasted on that reputation ever since. At the upscale hotel in Chad where he works at the pool, everyone still calls him champ. He leads a comfortable life, and now that old age is approaching, his job at the pool is better than ever. It essentially lets him sit back and relax and watch the rich people play in the pool. He takes his job very seriously, is always prompt and courteous, and is well respected. He has gotten his 20 year old, Abdel (Dioucounda Koma) a job at the pool as well, and admonishes him if he does not behave in the way he expects him to.

But Chad is in the midst of a rebellion. A group of rebels is clashing with the military all over the country, and it’s just a matter of time before it hits the capital where Adam works. He is told that if he wants Abdel to get out of military service, he has to pay. Adam can pay, but he refuses to accept the reality of the situation. When the hotel tells him that they no longer need two people at the pool, and Abdel is going to be the one person remaining, meaning Adam is transferring to gatekeeper, Adam is crushed. Abdel tells Adam he feels bad, but he needs his job as well – he has obligations. When Adam refuses to pay to get Abdel out of military service, they come and take him away – meaning Adam gets his job at the pool back. But the hotel is changing, because the country is changing. And then Adam learns why Abdel really did need his job.

A Screaming Man is a slow burn of a movie – one that starts off at a snails pace, and never truly picks up. I know that writer-director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is making a character study here – one in which the main character’s inaction defines him, and a to a certain extent that works. The performance by Djaoro is excellent, despite the fact that he actually says very little in the film – all the acting is done in his face. It anchors the movie, and makes it as good as it is.

Yet, having said that, I found that ultimately A Screaming Man was not altogether satisfying. The film is well made, sure, but it is also extremely slow. When you add the fact that outside of Adam, none of the characters are at all developed over the course of the movie, you have a fairly one dimensional film. That level is good, but it needed more to make A Screaming Man a better film. As it stands, the film is fine, but the ingredients are here for a much better – stronger – film.

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