A Screaming Man Review

A Screaming Man DVD
AKA: Un homme Qui Crie
Genre: Drama/Tragedy
Year Released: 2010
Distributor: Film Movement

Origin: Chad/Belgium/France
Running Time: 90 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Hotel Rwanda, Bye Bye Africa, Dreams of Dust, Ota-Itenkhole

Notes: N/A
Fun Facts:

-A Screaming Man is directed by Chadian-French filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. He has also directed Abouna, Daratt, and Grigris where that last film was also distributed by Film Movement later on.

-The music was composed by Senegalese musician Wasis Diop. Interestingly enough, he’s covered “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads in his native tongue of Wolof.

-Literary Bonus: The title comes from a quote from the book Return to by Native Land by Martinique-based poet and author Aime Cesaire. The full quote is “A screaming man is not a dancing bear.” which alludes to the main character Adam’s rage against God. It’s more of a metaphor since Adam doesn’t scream and rarely raises his voice in the film.

-The district chief is played by Cameroonian actor Emile Abossolo M’Bo who has appeared in American mainstream media in different forms. He was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, the 1998 live-action Madeline remake movie, and Highlander: The Series.

Even though I didn’t put this country in my target list of cinema in my reviewing thing for this year, I thought I would explore movies from the nation of Chad. Some of you may or not have heard of that country, but it’s in Africa and it borders Sudan, Cameroon, and Libya to name a few. Unfortunately, they had a civil war that went from 2005 to 2010 which is the same year this film was released to the public. Chadian-born director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun decided to use that situation as a backdrop for this film where it involves the relationship of a middle-aged father and his twenty-year-old son.

Will I be screaming praise or scorn for this film? Let’s find out, everybody.

A Screaming Man involves the life of Adam Ousmane. He’s a former swimming champion when he was much younger (several people in town even call him “Champ”) and he is Chad’s first ever pool attendant in the country as he works in this fancy hotel which attracts tourists from several continents. His son Abdel is busy living life in the fast lane, but he has a good relationship with his father. Tragedy strikes as the Chadian civil war is murmuring around with the army and rebel forces, but also because the hotel has been restructured due to massive privatization. It has lead to rampant terminations and reshuffling which affects the Ousmane’s. Adam loses his pool attendant job that he maintained for decades and is demoted to being the gatekeeper partially because owner Mrs. Wang doesn’t see a need for two pool attendants on duty. Adam’s replacement was his own son as the sole pool attendant which causes resentment with the dad. The civil war aspect starts to affect Adam since he’s coaxed into going to meetings with army sympathizers lest he be seen as a traitor. The pressure of the hotel’s new structure and the rampant patriotism from some of the locals gives him the idea to draft Abdel to the army so he can get his job back. Things become quite morose once everything goes in motion because of that decision.

This was a film that may have a simple story, but there were enough complexities to keep me engaged. There was certainly cautionary tale elements, but there was so much showing as opposed to just telling. The acting certainly amplified that. When Adam first gets demoted, he falls silent for a few minutes and his facial expressions portray the right mixture of resentment, disillusionment, sadness, and internalized rage all at once. Seriously, Youssouf Djaoro did a fantastic job playing Adam. This also goes for the other characters really nailing those emotions with their expressions and nonverbal cues. Adam’s pride certainly a huge downfall for that main character, but it’s not the only thing that should be pointed out when it comes to this tragic tale. There’s the aspect of massive corporate privatization where employees are fired for no reason other than because of budget cuts or new business layouts. With the hotel ownership by Mrs. Wang, it also brings up another point when it comes to multiple African nations. People of other (non-African) races have a higher advantage than those who are actually from the continent, so she was living better than several Chadians who had to deal with this civil war which explains why the other employees don’t show up and customer traffic is non-existent later on in the film. If they didn’t do all of this corporate reshuffling, most of the situation wouldn’t happen. While I’m not excusing everything Adam did, the whole system of the hotel only enabled him to make a rash decision, and I thought it was great how the fired employees were righteously angry or sad about those decisions in addition to the war. Besides that, the cinematography was well done. If you think an African film is automatically going to be low-budget or look cheap, then please smack yourself in the face. This was well-shot and it uses a lot of naturalistic imagery and earth tones. The usage of lighting such as the pool scenes or having only car headlights light up the night driving scenes was well-done. The ending scene was certainly poetic while also sad in it’s presentation with the river at the end.

A Screaming Man does whimper at moments. The music here was really good, but it was very disappointing when they didn’t subtitle any of the songs Djeneba sang which I presume is in one of the native languages in Chad. That was such a bummer because I wanted to know what she was singing about especially after she heard the cassette from Abdel. While the ending has a good amount of tragedy, I did think the third act does suffer from some storytelling choices and dropped plot points. The shots where the people were fleeing their towns because of the incoming insurgency could rival so many bigger-budget films and there was the part where Adam gets angry at Ahmet (the man at the cause meetings he abandoned) leaving his town even after sending his son to the army, but that came and went way too quickly. I also thought that Adam was unintentionally more petty than portrayed in trying to get his job back. It’s a pool attendant job. Sure, he made enough for what he needed, but this wasn’t some grand position even after being a swimming champion. One scene in the beginning caused me to dock the score a little bit. It’s the part where Adam and his wife give each other watermelon slices. Hopefully, I shouldn’t have to explain why a brief scene like that would be problematic especially given their melanin, but I shook my head.

This Chadian film was certainly a good entry despite some of it’s flaws. There was enough complexity in the morality and plot to make things more open to interpretation and totally not preachy at all. The filming was spot-on and the naturalistic setting really did wonders for this movie. I did have issues with certain scenes and the final third of the film does suffer in places from a storytelling perspective. A Screaming Man was a startling take on a plausible situation with the Chadian civil war.

Adjustable Point System:

Add 1 point if you like war tragedies.
Subtract 1-2 points if you like more uplifting movies.

-Very good visuals and editing
-Impeccable acting
-Realistic and complex portrayals of war and privatization

-Lack of subtitles for the music
-Weaker final act
-The watermelon scene

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: A Screaming Man would be best suited for teens and up. There’s mild language, but there are worse things in the film. Since there’s a war backdrop, expect to see some bloodshed and the aftereffects of violence. There are scenes on the TV of dead soldiers which gets quite disturbing. One aspect that needs to be mentioned is that there’s teen pregnancy with one supporting character. The age of consent is lower in Chad compared to America, so that dynamic is different in the context of that situation, but it’s still a warning to viewers.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. A Screaming Man is property of Mahamet-Saleh Haroun and Film Movement. The DVD cover is from Best Buy and is property of Film Movement.

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