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April 19 - 20

Letters from Chad: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

The Harvard Film Archive is honored to welcome Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, recipient of the tenth annual McMillan-Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking, awarded by Harvard's Film Study Center. Born in Chad in 1961, Haroun left the country during the civil war of the 1980s and relocated to France, by way of Cameroon. There he worked as a journalist before studying at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma in Paris. He is now more than a dozen years into his career as a filmmaker, shooting primarily in Chad.

This career has so far produced three feature films and a number of shorts that have made Haroun one of the leading lights in African cinema. He excels at spinning narratives that begin with easily recognizable situations – usually the loss of a parent – and expand to encompass allegorical and political reflection on the state of Chadian society. Often calm on the surface, Haroun's filmmaking belies this calm with simmering strains of anger and melancholy. While occasionally compared to the work of Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, perhaps because of their deceptively quiet surfaces, Haroun's films recognizably belong to an African tradition of filmmaking stretching from Ousmane Sembene to Abderrahmane Sissako that considers the place of cinema in a postcolonial Africa and, by extension, in a postcolonial world.

Please note: Mahamet-Saleh Haroun's visit to the Harvard Film Archive has been canceled. Difficulties with his Visa have not been resolved in time for his travel, and we are very sorry to announce he will not be appearing with his films, which screen as scheduled.

This program is co-presented by the Film Study Center at Harvard. Special thanks to the African Film Festival, as well as to this year's selection committee members: Francis Abiola Irele, David Pendleton and Mylene Priam, as well as to Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Ernst Karel of the Film Study Center.

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Appearance Canceled
Saturday April 19 at 7pm

Dry Season (Daratt)

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
With Ali Bacha Barkaï, Youssouf
Djaoro, Khayar Oumar Defallah
Chad 2006, 35mm, color, 96 min.
Chadian Arabic with English subtitles.

Following the announcement that the Chadian government has issued an amnesty for war criminals following decades of civil war, teenage orphan Atim is handed a revolver by his elderly grandfather and given a mission of vengeance: the boy must travel from his tiny rural village to the capital city and kill the man who many years earlier murdered his father. His target, however, turns out to be not a bloodthirsty monster but a devoutly religious Muslim baker who gruffly takes the young would-be assassin under his wing as an apprentice. The elliptical story, graced with notes of humor and expressive silences, unfolds with some surprising twists before ultimately resolving into a quietly wrenching drama of personal accountability and moral choice.

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Appearance Canceled
Sunday April 20 at 3pm

Bye Bye Africa

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
With Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Aicha Yelena, Garba Issa
Chad 1999, 35mm, b/w and color, 86 min.
Chadian Arabic and French with English subtitles

Haroun himself plays the lead role in Bye Bye Africa: a filmmaker, born in Chad but now living and working in France, receives a phone call late one night with the news that his mother has died. The director goes home for the first time in a decade to confront his ambivalence about his native land, and his native land's ambivalence about movies and movie making. A remarkable mix of documentary, narrative, and film essay, Bye Bye Africa is at once a fictionalized autobiography, a history of filmgoing in Chad, and a philosophical and political consideration on the complex interplay between cinema, modernity and contemporary Africa.

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Appearance Canceled
Sunday April 20 at 7pm

Our Father (Abouna)

Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
With Ahidjo Mahamat Moussa, Hamza Moctar Aguid, Zara Haroun
Chad 2002, 35mm, color, 84 min.
Chadian Arabic with English subtitles

Fifteen year-old Tahir and eight year-old Amine awake one morning in N'djamena to find their father gone and their mother silent with grief. As they ponder what to do, they spot their father onscreen at the local movie theater. A series of tragicomic consequences unspools from their decision to steal the reel of film containing their father. The film's young protagonists and gentle understatement will remind some of Kiarostami, but the clear-eyed mix of realism and allegory is a hallmark of Haroun's filmmaking.

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