Imagine being a filmmaker in a country that does not have a film industry. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun from the Republic of Chad in northern Africa does not have to imagine this — he has faced it and worked around this situation to create Abouna, one of the most impressive films currently in release.
Born in 1963, Haroun left his country to study cinema and journalism in France. He initially pursued a career in broadcasting before directing his first film, the 1994 short “Maral Tanie.” Five more short films followed in rapid succession, capped off by the 1999 digital feature “Bye-Bye Africa,” which won a jury mention at the Venice Film Festival.
“Abouna” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. The film is a drama about two young brothers who are abruptly abandoned by their father. Their search for the missing man leads them into unexpected criminal territory and they are sent by their mother to a strict Islamic boys school in a distant part of the country. A beautiful and sensitive feature, “Abouna” is also one of the very few African films to receive an American commercial release. African cinema is a staple of many festivals, including several events that celebrate the continent’s film output, but having an African feature available for commercial presentation is something of a rarity.
Film Threat caught up with Haroun at his studio in Paris to discuss the arrival of “Abouna” in America.
Get the interview in part two of MAHAMAT-SALEH HAROUN: AN AFRICAN EPIPHANY>>>