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Chad, 2006. After a forty-year civil war, the radio announces the government has just amnestied the war criminals. Outraged by the news, Gumar Abatcha orders his grandson Atim, a sixteen-year-old youth, to trace the man who killed his father and to execute him. Atim obeys him and, armed with his father's own gun, he goes in search of Nassara, the man who made him an orphan. It does not take long before he finds him. Nassara, who now goes straight, is married, goes to the mosque and owns a small bakery. After some hesitation Atim offers him his services as an apprentice. He is hired then it will be easy for him to gun down the murderer of his father. At least, that is what he thinks... Written by
The film is an emotional minefield of conflicted beliefs and morals, forever unfolding in a very angry; dry and apprehensive filmic space.
Dry Season is an interesting little pot-boiler of human emotion. It begins with a fair degree of hatred, before moulding into a film in which its lead must attain a certain respect. It then moulds further still into a tale of specific fondness two people have for one another, before concluding with a moral set piece complete with questions raising issues to do with honour, both to those you've known your whole life and to those you've come to know and respect in the short term. The development of the agents involved in Dry Season is fascinating and the power play going on between them carries a distinct sense of menace as we await the explosion of raw, human emotion as the act of revenge is carried out.
But Dry Season is all about getting to that obligatory scene, the scene that completes the lead's goal; it's all about what happens prior to that event and the chance to engage in that event. As it happens, the film has its own clever little spin on that notion with a finale that is quite magnificent. The film begins in a small town in Chad, in which Atim (Barkai) and his grandfather overhear an announcement on the radio declaring the lack of action that will be taken against Civil War-time war criminals. From here, the film creates an interesting juxtaposition between backdrop and emotional drive for its lead; a state of war that caused the whole country to clash has already ended; but a state of war, or distinct act of aggression, within the nation between two persons, or families, is about to begin again.
During the Civil War, Atim's father was killed by a man named Nassara (Djaoro); an individual living close by in a larger town than the one Atim currently inhabits. Armed, rather ritualistically, with his father's old gun; Atim travels to this place to kill Nassarsa. Initially, Dry Season is a genre piece. It's use, and slight spin, on the revenge arc as a drive for it's narrative is interesting as this young and lonely lead travels to a new and busier place to commit amoral acts on someone we have to presume is equally amoral. It represents a pushing of the film into a realm that makes it a lot more accessible than one might initially think. But, the film realises this, and rather than become a hard-boiled and cause and effect driven piece that sees the lead rampage his way through the new town in search for his ultimate goal, it places him with the antagonistic force of the piece early on, seeing them spend time together for the rest of the film's duration.
When Atim first meets Nassara, one knows whom the other is but the other does not fit into the same scenario. It turns out Nassara is a holy man and a frequenter of a mosque. He is a man who runs a bakery and hands out bread to the children each morning in many-a notion of goodwill. He will, as will his pregnant wife, soon be a parent and whilst Atim is there purely to offer death by way of pistol, Nassara can only offer life in return by way of pieces of bread. For Atim, Nassara develops into a fatherly figure; a figure Atim never had because of said man. For Nassara, Atim becomes somewhat of a son-like figure; someone he can pass on his learnings to, employ in the bakery and generally keep in contact with by way of close proximity.
As the two spend more and more time with each other, we begin to question Atim's drive. He is this close to his goal, but he holds back. Then we realise his father was killed before he was born, and that maybe the fact that specific personal connection between father and son was never there in the first place, it will blind Atim somewhat when it comes to carrying out an act of revenge on behalf of someone Atim, essentially, never even met. We begin to wonder if Atim subscribes to the belief retribution should be carried out on general principal and we doubt if he is still willing to follow through in his mission, rendering the film far more unpredictable than we first thought after twenty or so minutes, when familiar narrative arcs and genre seemed to be the order of the day. Atim's varying emotions act as one of the more interesting elements to the film. I was genuinely unconvinced if Atim would sway either way in terms of actually killing Nassara, and additionally spent some of the time wondering what payoff, indeed what new order, would unravel if Nassara was to remain alive.
As the film enters its final third, there is a distinct shift in temperaments as these two characters shift away from their respective fatherly and son-like figures. The two seem to suddenly share a fair amount of homo-erotic scenes together, as they engage in long pauses with one another while, at other points, Nassara gazes back at Atim's sweaty body as he does his work. There is one instance in which Atim tries to apply something to the back of Nassara's head and they roll about a bit with one another on the ground before sharing a moment. The content aids in pushing the characters away from the relationship they already shared; and in one final act of might-be homo-eroticism, Atim invites Nassara back to where he initially lived so that he can be introduced to the rest of his family. But queer theory aside, Dry Season is a genuinely intriguing study of raw human emotion as opposing sides bond.
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