The man doesn’t ever scream. Yet, he eloquently gives voice to the cruelty forced on him by choices both beyond his control on him and the ones he consciously makes.
Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s award-winning A Screaming Man is a portrait of a country and a family coming apart at the seams. The 2010 production, which is available on MUBI, revolves around a 55-year-old swimming pool attendant faced with the end of certainties.
It’s 2006, and there is a civil war in Chad. Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) is known as “Champ” for his feats as a swimming champion in his youth. His achievement has earned him the prized job of a swimming pool attendant at a luxury hotel. The hotel’s proposed privatisation is coupled with the conscription of his only son to fight the rebels.
Haroun’s screenplay lays out, with tremendous economy and impact, Adam’s moral dilemma as country and family threaten to fall apart.
Youssouf Djaoro, who has also appeared in Haroun’s Daratt (2006) and Lingui, The Sacred Bonds (2021), is the very picture of long-suffering dignity. The understated film relies on spare dialogue, deftly crafted interactions between characters, and some lovely visual sequences to express Adam’s travails.
There is the striking moment when Adam rides his motorcycle into a narrow alley whose walls seem to close in on him. The contrast between the luxurious hotel and Adam’s humble dwelling says a lot about post-colonial Chad without hammering home the point. While the screaming is suggested, the pain is real.
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