Dry Season (2006, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)

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.