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The lives of two brothers, who live in N'djamena, are upended when they awake one Saturday morning to find that their father has left the family. They are Amine, about eight years old, playful and asthmatic, and Tahir, 15, handsome, quiet, his brother's protector. The boys go in search of their father, and find only trouble. Dad's leaving also debilitates their mother. The movies, a musical uncle, a village Koran school, a poster of a Moroccan beach, and a young deaf woman figure in the resolution. Is there any place for happiness, or is happiness only in storybooks? Written by
On the surface a simple, affecting tale of two sons' search for their absent father, Abouna is actually a film of some sophistication.
At one point the brothers visit a cinema. The posters outside advertise the African film Yaaba, Chaplin's The Kid and most notably Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (hardly likely to be topping the bill in Chad). Other posters which would have been apt include "Pather Panchali", "Les Quatre Cent Coups" and any one of a number of recent Iranian movies.
Jarmusch's elliptical style of story-telling seems a particular influence, all of the obvious plot points (a kiss, a capture, a death) occur off-camera and the dialogue is more about what is not said than about what is. I do wonder a little whether an audience in Chad would buy this deadpan style or whether the film is really aimed at the First World art-house audience, but for me it works well.
There seems to be a metaphor in the idea of the absent father, perhaps relating to a country that the director feels has lost its way after many years of colonialism and war. The central family is not poor by African standards, but life is still harsh.
Much of the music is by the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, and you can really hear the African roots of the Blues in his playing. The images of landscape, skin, children playing are beautiful.
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