Film-Forward Review: [ABOUNA]

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Brothers Amine (L) & Tahir (R). Photo: Leisure Time

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ABOUNA
Directed & Written by: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.
Produced by: Guillaume de Seille.
Director of Photography: Abraham Haile Biru.
Edited by: Sarah Taouus Matton.
Music by: Diego Mustrapha N'Garade.
Released by: Leisure Time.
Country of Origin: Chad. 81 min. Not Rated.
With: Ahidjo Mahamet Moussa & Hamza Moctar Aguid.

In Abouna, which means our father in Arabic, two brothers are haunted by their fatherís disappearance. Tahir (Moussa), 15, and Amine (Aguid), eight, wake up to find him missing (presumably he has gone to neighboring Cameroon for work). Left on their own, they ditch school to go to the movies. There, they see who they think is their father on the screen. Convinced that they can find him from clues on the celluloid, the boys break into the cinema and steel a reel of film. Consequently they are arrested. As a result, their overwhelmed mother abandons them in a remote and authoritarian Koranic school. They attempt to escape to continue the search for their father, but a thorn in his foot hobbles Amine. Beaten when they return, they are put in chains.

This bittersweet tale of resilience contains several moving vignettes - the mother cradling the asthmatic Amine in her arms and a blossoming flirtation between Tahir and a beautiful village deaf-mute. Overall, the brothersí relationship is the filmís most convincing element. One moment they fight, and the next, the protective Tahir lovingly puts his arms around his younger brother. (The two juvenile actors are never less than engaging.) With its use of nonprofessional actors and actual locations, this is neorealism via Chad. However, Abouna is more moving to describe than it is to watch. Although beautifully photographed, director Harounís camera hardly moves. It fixes its stare on rather statically composed shots, keeping the viewer at a distance. Kent Turner
February 20, 2004

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