After waiting years to watch this, it was finally pretty disappointing… even if the political/social criticism is on point, the movie felt slow and obvious. Former swimming champ Adam has worked at the same hotel pool for decades, along with buddy David (a miniaturized Danny Glover) and now his son Abdel. Adam pays off a local government dude to keep Adbel out of the civil war – we thought Dry Season took place post-civil war, but apparently this is a new civil war, which ended a few months before the film premiered in Cannes (winning third place to Uncle Boonmee and Of Gods and Men).

Parents and son at home:

A Chinese company buys the hotel, notes that there isn’t enough pool work to justify employment of these three men, so fires David and demotes Adam to gatekeeper. He claims he can’t afford to pay anymore – maybe true, or maybe he is mad about the job situation – so Abdel is quickly drafted and Adam gets his pool job back. All is well for a few days, then Abdel’s previously unseen pregnant girlfriend moves in, the town is evacuated as the rebels advance, and Adam goes off to an army hospital to kidnap his mortally wounded son and give him a river burial.

Adam was the baker from Dry Season, looking convincingly less weathered (or maybe it’s been too long and I’d forgotten what he looked like, because I thought they must be two similar-looking actors). Abdel had small roles in Caché and Indigènes. David was in Grisgris and Haroun’s lesser-known Sexe, gombo et beurre salé, and the chief was in Africa Paradis and a passenger in Night on Earth. The girlfriend Djénéba Koné, a singer who cries a lot, was in Bamako as the sister-in-law of that film’s crying singer.

Adam Cook:

The film is beautifully shot with strong performances, particularly from the soulful Youssouf Djaoro in the lead role, but his life changing decision… never quite rings true. It does make the second half dramatically powerful and moving, and it even makes sense on a thematic level, but it is hard to believe his character would ever make such a callous choice.

Film #4 of African Movie Month (I won’t count West of Zanzibar).

Not as complete and fulfilling a story as the excellent Dry Season, but nicely shot and interesting throughout.

IMDB reviewer: “When Tahir and Amine wake up one morning they find their father has already left the house. When he fails to return for their football match they begin to think something is up and their mother is no help, refusing to help find him and hoping to just move past this useless man. However when the two sons start to look for their father they find that he has not been to his job in over two years and they believe that they have seen him in a film shown at a local cinema. When they get in trouble for stealing the film, their mother sends them away to a Koran school where the boys quickly realise that things will not be as good as they have been told.”

Younger one dies of asthma at the end with his inhaler stolen, older one runs off with the mute girl he’s fallen for.

Movie posters are seen for Yaaba, Chaplin’s The Kid, and Stranger Than Paradise (the latter obviously placed to acknowledge Jim Jarmusch’s influence on Haroun, not because it’s likely to be playing Chad theaters in 2002).

First movie I’ve seen from Chad. Simple story with few characters told in chronological order and classically shot: so obviously not similar to anything else that’s out right now.

Atim and his grandpa hear on the radio that the civil war criminals have all been pardoned, so grandpa gives Atim the family pistol, and he very simply sets out on a quest across the country to the city, to find and kill the man who shot Atim’s father. Hits town and immediately meets Moussa, an overly friendly kid who gives Atim clothes (I think) and food and a place to stay. Soon finds killer Nassara and fidgets with his gun a lot when no one’s looking. Idly stalks Nassara outside his bakery for a while, refuses free bread, finally agrees to work for him. Why? To get closer to him, to understand how he lives, to get closer to his family and kill them too? More likely, Atim seems like a nice kid and Nassara is a wonderful father figure, so the attraction was mutual.

Atim works the bakery for a while and learns some lessons along the way. Don’t get too familiar with Nassara’s new wife: he’ll beat her. Don’t hang out with Moussa anymore: he’s a thief. Listen to Nassara: he’s been around and knows what’s what… but he also gets hurt, gets drunk, and has his business wrecked by wily competitors. Only human, then.

Atim gets too close, ends up bringing N. home “to get Atim’s family’s permission for N. to adopt him” and sets up the execution in front of his blind grandpa. Pushes N. down and shoots into the air. Really the only way it could end without us hating somebody.

Should we hate somebody? Are we all good at heart? Is revenge a fool’s game? The writer/director’s obviously big into forgiveness, but I can’t tell if he agrees with the post-war amnesty completely. Anyway, it brings up some complicated feelings and ideas, and very well shot and acted. A completely worthy movie. I think I liked it even more than Katy, who initiated our round-trip drive to Nashville to see it.

More: Atim has been beaten by some nasty cops when Moussa first meets him, and later Atim gets his chance and beats one of the same cops down in the street. Justice is served. Another cop walks by slowly, missing a leg, slowly over a bridge, Atim aims his gun, fires. At the cop? Don’t know, it was offscreen. Katy thinks he was aiming away and I think he was aiming for the cop (even though aiming away makes more sense for his generally moral character). Also Katy thinks Atim’s rejection of Moussa on the basis of M’s being a petty thief is ridiculous, since everyone in the city steals to get by, but A. is from a small, very rural town, where he might have been taught otherwise.

Waited too long between seeing and writing, so I’ve lost some textual details. There was a little music, some interesting shots, I think a pretty great film overall.

Oh, we saw a short beforehand, Namibia, Brazil, which had no real point (except to show how pretty Rio can be), but the credits say it’s an excerpt from a longer film so maybe that’s why.