In the history of the festival, only one director from the African continent has been awarded the supreme distinction: the Algerian Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina in 1975 with Chronicle of the years of embers. (The Egyptian Youssef Chahine was awarded the Fiftieth Anniversary Prize of the Cannes Film Festival for all of his work in 1997.)
Regular at the festival (his second feature film Abouna was selected in 2002 for the Directors’ Fortnight), Mahamat Saleh Haroun still does not tire of it: “It’s really a pleasure to be there today, each time, there are new emotions”, he told Agence France Presse.
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Produce positive images
Aware of being the only representative of sub-Saharan Africa, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, assumes to be one of his voices, without wanting to be reduced to the rank of spokesperson for this region: “I am only a passing wind, but for life to continue, other winds and squalls are also needed”, he jokes.
“We modestly try to get things done. By filming in the Sahel, I also realize that it is a place where I can produce positive images in a place where life is a permanent nightmare”, underlines the one who was for a time Minister of Culture and Tourism of his country.
Filmed in the suburbs of the Chadian capital N’Djamena, the film tells the story of Amina, a single mother, who discovers that her 15-year-old daughter, Maria, is pregnant. A pregnancy, the result of rape, that the teenager does not want, in a country where abortion is condemned by religion, but also by law.
Alone, marginalized, watched, the film paints a strong portrait of women trying to survive in a hostile environment where patriarchy and religion poison women’s lives. The only light of hope, “le lingui”, a link that women will weave between themselves in an attempt to escape.
This is how Amina chooses to support her daughter in her quest to have an abortion, going against her faith.
For its director, the film does not only deal with the issue of abortion but with the “daily life of women” in Chad. “It’s a film about everyday heroines (..) It is they who carry the world which keeps them in a form of domination. Talking about women is necessarily talking about all these problems “, he emphasizes.
“These women are hurdlers … Every day there are more hurdles to jump and life increasingly difficult for them”, he continues. Throughout the story, the spectator feels the benevolent gaze of the director on these women in desperate quest for emancipation, at a time when the cinema questions the male gaze in films (male gaze).
“As a man, I am part of the patriarchy but we always manage as individuals in conscience to get rid of everything we have inherited. We must believe in this possibility that man can change”, he assures.
A stripped-down film, which succeeds in transporting the viewer to the reality of N’djamena. “I grew up being stripped down, for me it is important to go to the essentials”, he concludes.