Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun talks to David Kehr about Abouna, his second feature and only the third film to be made in his native country. There is no commercial cinema in Chad, yet films--and particularly US films--have a powerful influence on the imaginations of young people living in impoverished isolation.
An ardent admirer and student of foreign directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Hou-Hsiao Hsien, Kitano Takeshi, and Clint Eastwood, Haroun is an uncommon internationalist in the nascent African filmmaking industry. He's undaunted by such bright lights, however: "Our films are a little like candles, no? They illuminate only a small space, small groups of particular people. But those people can be everywhere, all over the planet.''
In an interview with Neil Young at the Edinburgh Festival, Haroun spoke at more length about his process and working with non-professional actors. When asked about autobiographical influences on his film, Haroun readily agreed, "Creation sometimes is just a question of memory."
Abouna screened last year in New Directors/New Films, and will be on Sundance Channel starting Sunday night as part of the Voices from Africa program. One African film, Apolline Traore's Koundani, from Burkina Faso is in this year's New Directors/New Films.