Pathos of Chad

              Mahamat Selah Haroun, is a film maker from Chad in Central Africa.  His 2010 feature film ‘The Screaming Man’ won the Jyry’s Prize at The Cannes Film Festival in France, following that coveted win, Saleh Haroun was heralded by The Guardian as the renaissance man bringing Chad to the world. ‘Gris-Gris’, his 2013 feature film was funded by the Chadian government.  Still, the beginnings of this film maker in his home country of Chad were tumultuous.  Under a dictatorial regime, Selah-Haroun and his family were forced to flee Chad 35 years ago, first to Cameroon and then to Paris.  It was in France that he seized the opportunity to study film.

Haroun says "The award at Cannes has had an incredible effect in the sense that it has practically catapulted the role of cinema and the importance of cinema, even to a political level in Chad,"

War has changed my life. I was 16 or 17 and injured and left my country. I didn’t choose to leave

 my parents and riends, but the war changed my destiny. Living far away, you have a wider lens, so maybe you see more  ”

I wanted to explore the responsibility of fathers. In Chad, we’ve had war for almost 40 years, so there’s something passed from fathers to sons that allows this to continue. At the same time, I didn’t want to show the father as a bad person. I wanted to observe, without judgement.’

Robert Bresson was a big influence, in terms of being simple in your storytelling, and also Japanese directors, like Ozu, and other Asian movies in which there is little artifice. This is close to my culture. In the desert, you don’t say much. You don’t have to talk and talk. The landscape is so empty and you are between the sun and sky and feel very small. You just drink tea and no one talks. Also, in the last few years I have discovered John Ford. He is one of the greatest. I like his sense of space and how he avoids close-up. 

Chad is an exception. There are very few film-makers. If I stopped making them, you would never see images of Chad," he said. "This view of the world, from this country where there aren't film-makers, is very important I think. So, I do it through solidarity and because I feel a responsibility not to leave this country invisible."

Selah  Haroun left Chad in his 20s, forced to flee with his parents during the civil war. Having managed to cross the Logone river between Chad and Cameroon, he made his way to France, working as a journalist in Bordeaux before arriving in Paris. He had left the country wounded, without any possessions, but kept one thing in his pocket: the address of a film school in Paris  He hoped his own success in his own country might provide an example to others. 

Haroun continues, “African directors have a responsibility to be brutally honest when dealing with the problems of the continent. "This feeling of being   


part of the world, seeing the same images at the same moment gives a sense of equality. Things [in African cinema] have changed, fortunately, otherwise there would have been little use in me continuing."

"We have completely entered the modern world, and it is really quite incredible. I never dreamed that making films could change the course of history, and I can assure you that is the most beautiful present anyone could have given me."

"The award at Cannes has had an incredible effect in the sense that it has practically catapulted the role of cinema and the importance of cinema, even to a political level in Chad," he said.

I may live in France, but my home is in Chad," he said. "Because I really love this country, I really love its people … the people I tell stories about seem to be real. The most rewarding thing is that when I show my films over there, the people have this impression. They told me: 'That's it, you're talking about us.'"

"That a film can change the course of history in a country like Chad, I find that extraordinary." Asked if he was therefore, confident about the future of African 

cinema, Haroun said: "Pan-Africanism is dead, and we must bury it. And if it is dead there is no African cinema. There is cinema in each country. We have to create a new utopia, where if one country can manage to create films, other countries can follow."

 "I laugh when I see African comedies because things are so serious. Do you think we need that in Africa? When we have things like in Mali happening? Cinema can't be a luxury, it can't be an art of entertainment. That's a luxury we should leave to others, but not Africans."Dismissing Nollywood, the film industry centred in Nigeria, as a "monster" aping a money obsessed Hollywood, he said: "Film-makers must wake people up, and take part in thinking about Africa's future. They must push our capacity to think about our own destiny."

Now,   Selah-Haroun is the minister of culture in his country chad.  He is working on a project,

 An  International film school in his country,  says "From the moment the school opens we will have technicians, actors, an entire industry that will completely change our offering. It will create a whole new economy around cinema in Chad, that's what I'm working towards."





















Haroun, Cultural Minister, Chad with Irina Bokova,UNESCO


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