Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This is a story of loss and alienation in a beautifully photographed African landscape. There is immense charm to it, touching on the sentimental, with a tragic moment of truth near the end that is less than convincing.

Tahir and Amine are brothers, living in Chad in what looks like relative comfort. One day, their father doesn't come home. "He's left us," their mother says.

Copy picture

The boys find themselves in a limbo of unknowingness. They run off in search of the absent parent, but don't know where to go. Their friends ostracise them, as if they are plague victims. Their mother is protective, but uncommunicative. They have been wounded in some way, wounded in the heart.

They end up in a religious boarding school, because their mother can't cope and they have been caught stealing from a local cinema. Homesick and afraid, the younger Amine suffers from asthma, while 15-year-old Tahir falls for a mute girl in a gold dress.

The character of the father remains enigmatic. His act of betrayal, if that is what it was, is seen as destructive towards the family and yet his reasons for leaving are not known. The film takes the form of a journey from the safety of a secure home to the uncertainty of a benign institution.

The idyllic love that Tahir discovers with the golden girl contrasts with Amine's confusion ("Why are we suffering?") and failing health. Their mother drifts into madness, like a Shakespearean heroine, as the story glides towards an imagined new beginning.

Sun, heat and colours are intense, the performances too natural to be called professional. Abouna is a small film, crafted with love and affection, that speaks with a quiet voice.

Reviewed on: 09 Jan 2003
Share this with others on...
Abouna packshot
Two brothers from Chad are affected in different ways when their father leaves home.
Amazon link

Read more Abouna reviews:

Keith Hennessey Brown ***1/2

Director: Mahamat Saleh Haroun

Writer: Mahamat Saleh Haroun

Starring: Ahidjo Mahamat Moussa, Hamza Moctar Aguid, Zara Haroun, Mounira Khalil, Koulsy Lamko, Garba Issa

Year: 2002

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: Chad/France


EIFF 2002

Search database: