|Souleymane Démé as Grigris|
Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Screenplay: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Cinematography: Antoine Héberlé
Editing: Marie-Hélène Dozo
Costumes: Anne-Marie Giacalone
Sound: Bridget O’Driscoll, André Rigaut, Julien Cloquet, Helene Lelardoux
Music: Wasis Diop
Cast: Souleymane Démé, Anaïs Monory, Cyril Guei, Marius Yelolo, Hadje Fatime N’Goua, Abakar M’Bairo, Youssouf Djaoro
Production: Pili Films, Goï Goï Productions, France 3 Cinéma
Producer: Florence Stern
Language: French, Arabic
Duration: 101 min.
2K DCP with English subtitles by Melissa Chackway viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 11 June 2014
Timo Malmi (Midnight Sun Film Festival 2014 Catalogue): "Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun accounts the inspiration to his latest work for Souleymane Démé who plays Grigris, the leading character. He is indeed a remarkable sight – a dancer with a paralyzed leg who night after night steals the show in a Chadian nightclub, charming the audience with his extraordinary moves like a local Travolta."
"Opening with compelling dance scenes, the story then transfers into Grigris’ everyday life, revealing him to be a photographer struggling to get by. His time is shared between two people; Mimi, a stripper-prostitute willing to get her picture taken but becoming the target of Grigris’ hopeful love, and a critically ill uncle whose treatment requires great financial sacrifice, which Grigris eventually resolves by working for petrol traffickers common in Chad."
"Haroun’s thriller adaptation with hints of Afro culture and feminism successfully avoids clichés – or uses them to meet his cinematic needs. His talent lies in telling the story of the underprivileged through solidarity and love with unexpected results."
"Haroun’s humane perspective even reaches a surprisingly sympathetic gangster boss whom he uses to convey humour even at the toughest of times; before going out to do a job, the criminals bow down to pray." (TM)
As Timo Malmi states above, Grigris is character-driven. It is built around the leading actor Souleymane Démé, the invalid acrobat, the human rubber band with miraculous movements, all muscle, all grace, yet with a humble and nice character. Further memorable aspects:
Grigris is a photographer's assistant, aware of the fact that "the time of photography is over" because "now everybody is a photographer".
Yet when Mimi arrives as a client in need for some seductive photographs the results are wonderful, and certainly not "everybody" could have achieved such beauty.
Helping his uncle with a need for an impossible amount of money for the hospital Grigris gets involved with gangland. The petrol traffickers brutally beat Grigris having found out that money is missing, and Grigris looks for shelter with Mimi who soon lands under threat, herself.
Grigris and Mimi elope to Mimi's home village. Haroun displays an original approach to sensuality in the paradise sequence that ensues. It turns out that Mimi is pregnant (not by Grigris), and Grigris proposes to Mimi, promising to take care of the baby. Grigris the dancer becomes a favourite of the village children.
A gangster soon arrives in this car, about to execute Grigris. But the village ladies (men are absent) gather around him with their heavy sticks. The corpse of the gangster is burned in his car.
The story has parallels with the Western and the film noir, but it is fully African in both the urban and the rural episodes. Haroun has a firm touch on the milieu and the characters, and the colours are beautiful. The rhythm is languid at times, probably intentionally.
There is a digital look in the presentation, missing the juiciness of atmosphere that would come naturally to photochemical film.