At 50, Chadian writer-director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is old enough to have seen his homeland sink into carnage more than once. A Screaming Man is Haroun’s war film—but, a man of minimalist proclivities, he speaks of national tragedy through the story of a swimming pool. Father Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) and son Abdel (Diouc Koma) are a team of pool attendants at a N’Djamena resort hotel. A former swimming medalist whom everyone still calls “champion,” Adam is an employee of 30 years’ standing, but corporate restructuring moves him to an undignified new post (shades of Murnau’s The Last Laugh), leaving 20-year-old Abdel alone in the water. Adam recovers his job only when Abdel is forcibly inducted into the army, an event that his father is ambiguously complicit in. There’s no gunplay here; war is an ever-nearer off-screen horror, its first stirring coming through Adam’s transistor radio, then a passing helicopter. A Screaming Man’s story of economically enforced generational rivalry reflects the division—or, rather, lack of division—of the burden of war between fathers and sons. The characterizations never comfortably accommodate Haroun’s pat metaphor, though his stoic visual storytelling has an oblique gravity, suggesting a slightly altered meaning to each surveying shot of the poolside patio.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2011