Quick Thoughts: Abouna (Our Father, 2002)
Made by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, this is the Chadian film of the series.
I’m not sure why – I think it’s just because I saw this film at the right time – but, Abouna had a strong impact on me. From the very start, themes of responsibility jumped off of the screen and mixed perfectly with motifs of abandonment, isolation and confusion. In such, we follow our two forsaken main characters, whose father walks out on them and mother sends them to a Koranic school to be disciplined, as they trudge through events that seem far beyond their experience, age and depth. They then have to confront the meaninglessness that life can present when childhood structures are suddenly ripped from underneath them – simple structures like daily routines, but also more complex events like moving schools and watching your family dissolve around you. Without drowning in the structureless landscape that I could only imagine a young teenager would perceive when they look out into the world having endured much of the events depicted in this film, our main characters become the epicentre of a narrative based on strife as a force that would pressure many people into a foetal position in which they would forever remain–but also a force that many manage to stare in the face and simultaneously engage life as it seems we all must do.
The warm cinematography and use of colour throughout this film overlay this narrative with a sense of instantaneous nostalgia and melancholy, making visceral the pertinent themes of childhood. And the technicalities of this film are made all the more impressive knowing the strange shooting schedule: the footage from the end of every day of shooting would have to be sent over 2500 miles to France from Chad. After the film was processed and the crew was told that the footage was good, several days after they had sent it, they could begin shooting another day.
Somehow managing this schedule, somehow putting to screen a well-directed and good-looking movie with a highly affecting and poignant story at its heart, Haroun has clearly done something lasting and spectacular with Abouna. I would highly recommend anyone even slightly intrigued find and watch this film.
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