Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dry Season (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Many long years after the end of the civil war which devastated Chad, the news comes through on the radio: a general amnesty has been granted for all those accused of war crimes. It may have been a long time, but old wounds haven't healed. Still agonised by the death of his son, elderly Gumar gives his grandson Atim a gun and sends him out to get revenge. But when Atim meets the man who killed his father, he finds someone altogether more complicated than he expected. Offered a job in his bakery, he works hard whilst struggling to determine his own moral direction. As he works the two begin to form a bond, with his enemy becoming the father figure he has never known.
'Daratt' translates literally as 'dry season', and this is a long, dry story, with a hero who speaks so little that he might as well be working for Kim Ki-Duk. Nassara, the man he has been sent to kill, has his own war injuries, and speaks using a mechanical aid which, given the theme, cannot help but invite Darth Vader comparisons. Despite this, Daratt manages to communicate a great deal. As the troubled young hero, newcomer Ali Barkai delivers a complex performance which will resonate with teenagers everywhere - one doesn't need to have been through a war to understand his frustration with the way adults treat him, his anger at society in general or his burning need to assert his own identity.
This is a coming of age story in the old tradition, and it unravels more as a fable than in a modern movie style, but it is no less powerful for that. It has already taken the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, together with a slew of other awards. It's strong, accomplished film-making, and it should serve as a wake-up call to the West: African cinema is on the verge of a breakthrough.
In portraying the aftermath of war, Daratt has important things to say for people who have experienced conflict all across the world. With its pale, bleak landscapes and large empty spaces, its Chad is a visibly haunted place, a place where at least a third of the people we see have some major disability, living with the consequences of past violence. Yet it is also a place where boys play at football and run around the streets utterly carefree, reminding us that there is a generation which has escaped such suffering. It's clear that there is real hope for the future if the country can escape the legacy of its war-torn past; yet Atim has a gun in his pocket and a decision to make. It seems his masculinity is at stake. When it is over, he has promised, he will meet his grandfather under the jujube tree. To join him there, you'll have to see the film.Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2007
If you like this, try:Buried Dreams