Film Review: A Screaming Man

A Screaming Man is an affecting drama that eschews some initial humour for a serious and visceral narrative. Much of the film’s emotional clout is derived from the excellent performance of leading man Youssouf Djaoro.

Former swimming champion Adam loves working at as a pool attendant along with his son Abdel at a hotel complex in Chad. After some reorganisation at the hotel, Adam is forced to give up his job to his son. Adam’s humiliation at this turn of events leads him to make some life-altering decisions…

Despite the backdrop of a war-torn Chad, A Screaming Man is an intensely personal story. It is difficult not to feel sympathy for Adam, after being demoted from the job he loves, especially as his son replaces him. Along with the indignity of his ousting, it is clear just how passionate Adam is about swimming. Director and writer Mahamat-Saleh Haroun punctuates Adam’s humiliation with overt cues; Adam’s new uniform is ill fitting and he is made to run back and forth opening gates, for example.

A Screaming Man is a story about an aging man and his place in society. Given his precarious position at work, Adam is unable to offer his family (specifically his son) the same protection he could have once afforded. Thus, he is ineffective in his role as protector; this puts him at odds with the life he has become accustomed to. The film is also preoccupied with familial relationships. Haroun draws a sharp contrast between an early scene between Adam and his wife Mariam where they are affectionate and jovial with an uncomfortable and silent dinner later in the film. A Screaming Man, then, is bold with its parallels.

Djaoro offers a formidable portrayal of Adam. He maintains a reservedness that makes his more emotional moments all the more poignant when they occur. Dioucounda Koma is convincing as Abdel, particularly in later scenes. Hadje Fatime N’Gouta appears stilted as Mariam; there seems to be a lack of urgency in the dramatic scenes.

From the opening scene in the swimming pool, A Screaming Man uses the most vibrant palette. These early scenes of light contrast both visually and thematically with the sombre conclusion. The narrative is absorbing, although it lulls rather after an hour or so.

A Screaming Man is worth a watch for Djaoro’s strong performance, as well as some beautiful cinematography. Expect an air of sobriety, however.

A Screaming Man is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.

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