Friday, June 15, 2018

Daratt / Dry Season

Daratt / Dry Season. The old baker and his apprentice who has come to kill him: Ali Bacha Barkei (Atim) and Youssouf Djaoro (Nassara)

Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Country: Chad, France, Belgium, Austria
Year: 2006
Duration: 1.36
Languages: ar, fr
    35 mm with English subtitles.
    In the presence of Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
    Viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), Sodankylä, 15 June 2018.

MSFF: "The original idea for Dry Season, the philosophical story of revenge and atonement set in the days of the prolonged Chadian Civil War that has won awards e.g. at the Venice Film Festival, came from from Mozart’s composition La clemenza di Tito. The grandfather of the 16-year-old Atim (Ali Bacha Barkai) sends him into the capital to kill Nassara (Youssouf Djaoro), the murderer of the boy’s father. The old and surly Nassara, however, unexpectedly takes the youth under his wing and proceeds to teach him how to work in his bakery. Tormented by contradictory feelings, Atim becomes part of the family of Nassara and his pregnant wife (Aziz Hisseine), and along with the new father figure, the original idea of revenge turns questionable."

"Mahamat-Saleh Haroun is one of the most lovable directors one has encountered during these recent years. The tranquil, unstressed narrative style of Dry Season, a film robed in eye-pleasing colours, where emotional turmoil and life’s diversity are presented in a beautiful and pure shape represents cinema in its most pristine form in the same way as, for instance, in many of the works by Roberto Rossellini and Abbas Kiarostami. The almost Pagnolian everyday life of the bakery – being in touch with the basics of human existence, in this case literally “our everyday bread” – is just about a perfect counterforce to the traumas caused by war and violence weighing on the boy’s mind."

"On the level of the dialogue, the director retains an artful sparseness, and the characters’ mutual reticence serves to emphasize the psychological dimensions of this setting even further. The final scene is startling, fierce, and surprising; Haroun’s film in itself pure enjoyment, from the beginning to the end." (Lauri Timonen)

AA: When the 40 year civil war in Chad ends in 2006, amnesty is announced. The blind patriarch of the family is furious and sends his grandson Atim to kill Nassara, the murderer of his father. But Nassara, a master baker, takes Atim as his apprentice. Atim thinks this gives him a brilliant opportunity to carry out his mission. But Nassara is a changed man, himself disturbed by the history of violence, a devout Muslim, and a baker who believes that the most important ingredient in making bread is love. With his wife Aisha he is very much hoping to have a child, but since there is a miscarriage, Nassara and Aisha want to adopt Atim. This is too much for Atim, and angrily he packs his bag and leaves. But since Nassara follows him, they meet the patriarch together, and he orders the revenge to be carried out. Atim shoots in the air, the blind patriarch is satisfied, and Nassara lies on the ground, stripped of his clothes and humiliated, but alive.

Aisha is much younger than Nassara. It is a marriage arranged by her parents. A rapport is immediately established between Aisha and Atim, but Atim is too young to be her man and too old to be her son. Nevertheless, there are The Postman Always Rings Twice moments in the tale.

Nassara is getting older. He, too, is a war victim: his throat has been slashed, and he can only speak via a booster that he applies on his throat. He hurts his finger in a dough machine. He hurts his back lifting a heavy flour sack. Every time there is an opportunity for Atim for retribution. Instead, he helps the old man, and especially when Aisha is in the maternity hospital, Atim helps Nassara in everything and even gives him a back massage. The loss of the baby is crushing for Aisha and Nassara. Atim consoles Aisha tenderly. "God has abandoned me", cries Nassara. "Everybody hates me".

A simple and powerful story told in simple and powerful images, glowing with rare intensity. The colours are bright, pure and forceful in this brilliant 35 mm print which looks like it has been struck from the original negative. There is a consistent sense of the elementary.

Like Une saison en France two days ago, Daratt was an exceptionally moving experience. I cancelled all remaining appointments in my schedule for the rest of the day.

Yesterday Haroun identified himself as wanting to belong to "the Chaplin family of the cinema", including Jarmusch, Kaurismäki, Kiarostami, Rossellini, and De Sica. (Might one add Ozu and Ray). In the intensity of Haroun's images I find an affinity with a film-maker who does not belong to the family, Tarkovsky. There is an elementary and unsettling quality in Daratt. A complexity in simplicity.

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