Adam Ousmane otherwise known as ‘Champion’, is a pool attendant at hotel in Chad. He works alongside his son; the pair seem tightly knit and get on well. However, when the hotel owners decide to make cutbacks, ‘Champion’ gets re-positioned to gatekeeper and his son keeps control of the pool. This is deeply humiliating for him, as an ex-swimming champion he views the pool attendant position as his own. The relationship dynamics between father and son become severed, ‘Champion’ is meant to be the head of the family, but his own son has completely undermined him. One scene sees the family eating dinner in complete silence, the camera is face-on and rock steady, you sit there soaking up the awkwardness. The film is juxtaposed in present-day Chad with ongoing civil war, the government wants all citizens to join the cause and defeat the rebels. Either you give up your money or you join the army. ‘Champion’ is being hassled for money, he instead unthinkable decides to give his son to the army.
This film is less about war though, and more about relationships. However, the story is embedded in the recent conflict in Chad. The cinematography is beautiful, the shots often seem over-exposed but this probably comes from shooting in desert conditions.
The film is very special in two ways. Firstly, this is African film made in Africa, it obviously has outside funding but it feels truly organic. Secondly, the director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has been very daring in the amount of screen-time given to lead actor Youssouf Djaoro. There is little to no dialogue in parts, it could have been very boring but it is isn’t. It is captivating cinema, and quietly brilliant. The narrative flow is slow, but you are constantly engaged. This film won’t get a lot of coverage from the press, but don’t let it slip off your radar.