The venue is one of those places where there is a seemingly endless civil war. The story could be that of many Latin American countries, several Middle Eastern countries or one of many African nations. Here it’s Chad and the story is written and directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
For a movie entitled The Screaming Man, the protagonist is remarkably quiet. Many times people ask him what’s wrong? Why so quiet? His wife, his son. His co-workers. Adam Ousmane works as a pool boy, manning the towels, cleaning the pool at a hotel. Adam is a quiet, modest man, although he projects a regal, almost noble presence. Tall and lanky, he has his past glories, a former swimming champion for the national team. Friends call him ‘Champ’. His only son, twenty-year old Abdel, also works at the hotel – at the pool actually, with his father as his boss. Champ loves his son but looks upon him as a rival, as the next generation that will displace him and his own generation. In fact, in a cost-cutting move, the hotel replaces Champ with his son, but Champ remains at the hotel as the gatekeeper. The former gatekeeper is fired.
Champ is obviously troubled by these events. In the background are constant news reports of the rebel forces advancing, of the need to support the home forces. Everyone must do his part, and Champ feels the pressure to do his. Suddenly his son is dragged off to war. The Champ gets his old job back, but at what price? The sounds of overhead choppers bring the conflict closer and closer. Curfews are imposed. Government forces become increasingly irritable with the local populace. The Champ is seen riding his scooter with sidecar against the flow of fleeing refugees. Sound familiar?
Excepting for The Champ (played by Youssouf Djaoro), the actors seem uncomfortable and amateurish. Djaoro is another story though. The camera seems draw to him and he’s very comfortable in his own skin. He moves like a panther, or a former star athlete. The film took a Jury prize for best film at Cannes 2010 – a good film, but that seems to me a bit of a stretch.
This is a post-colonial story of warfare and suffering and futility. Are we seeing this cycle begin again in Iraq with the recent news? Post invasion, post withdrawal. More bloodshed and futility. Early in the film, one of The Champs friends, the hotel cook who has just been fired, laments his fate. “Our problem,” he says, “is that we put our destiny in God’s hands.”