Referred to as “one of the leading lights in African cinema” by the Harvard Film Archive, top African director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun will appear at The Music Hall for conversation following the showing of his sixth and latest film, Daratt (Dry Season), as part of the “Africa on Film” series in SummerFilm@The Music Hall, Wednesday July 16 at 7:30pm. He will be introduced by Music Hall film curator and Telluride Film Festival co-founder Bill Pence and will be interviewed by Virginia Prescott, host of the new NHPR program, Word of Mouth. Prior to joining NHPR, Prescott was editor and producer for the nationally syndicated programs On Point and Here & Now produced at WBUR in Boston. Throughout her radio career, Virginia helped set up independent radio stations in developing regions in southern and West Africa. Haroun will start his US visit picking up the Dartmouth Film Award, then he’ll present Daratt to the Maine International Film Festival, stop in Portsmouth at The Music Hall before heading to Harvard where he will receive the McMillan-Stewart Fellowship in Distinguished Filmmaking, awarded by Harvard's Film Study Center.
Daratt will play at the 1878 Music Hall, called “one of the premier venues on the New England seaboard...a mandatory destination” by Yankee Magazine, set in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the hip historic seaport city recently named a “Distinctive Destination” for 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation. National Geographic Traveler referred to Portsmouth as “one of the boutique cities of America, and it’s blossoming right now.”
The film is set in Haroun’s home country of Chad. After a forty-year civil war, the government amnesties all war criminals. 16-year-old Atim offers his service as apprentice to the man who killed his father, with the intent to exact revenge. Daratt received the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, the UNESCO Award, and the Amnesty International Award. The New York Times said, “Gently and quietly told…an unassumingly political work…the simplicity of a parable and the gravity of a Bible story. Daratt tells this story of a would-be boy-killer and his prey with restraint, a touch of humor and an elegant eye. The film has the feel of a gift.” Written (in French and Chadian Arabic, with English subtitles) and directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun; director of photography, Abraham Haile Biru; edited by Marie-Helene Dozo; music by Wasis Diop; produced by Abderrahmane Sissako; released by ArtMattan Productions. With Ali Bacha Barkai (Atim); Youssouf Djaoro (Nassara), Aziza Hisseine (Aicha), Djibril Ibrahim (Moussa), Fatime Hadje (Auntie Moussa) and Khayar Oumar Defallah (Grandfather). R, 96 min, Chad, 2006
Filmmaker speaks of “colonization by images”
Haroun, who left Chad during the country’s fight for independence, settled in France but returns to Chad to make his films despite significant obstacles. According to The Guardian, “There is only one proper cinema in the African republic, and that is housed in a French cultural complex. Film screenings in village halls are frequently suspended during the rainy season. The country has no professional actors, no film technicians or cinematographers, nowhere to develop film stock, no government film office, no public or private money for indigenous cinema.” But this only makes Haroun more passionate about making films there. Haroun believes that unless people see their own images on screen instead of those from Europe or America, there occurs what he likes to call “a colonization by images.” The Harvard Film Archive said, “He excels at spinning narratives that begin with easily recognizable situations – usually the loss of a parent – and expand to encompass allegorical and political reflection on the state of Chadian society. Often calm on the surface, Haroun's filmmaking belies this calm with simmering strains of anger and melancholy.”
Daratt is just one of 13 films selected for the Africa on Film series. According to film curator Bill Pence, “Our intention is to show a broad range of films about Africa from different perspectives, including contemporary African film artists and documentaries that comment on the current state of affairs, and films that have not been seen in New England. It’s a huge undertaking – it’s a continent not a country!”Other films include King Solomon’s Mines, Hotel Rwanda, Yeelen, Bamako, Nowhere in Africa, and The Last King of Scotland.
Beyond the Africa series, the balance of the 42 films in SummerFilm@the Music Hall ranges from the “absolute delight” (Boston Globe) of the just released Son of Rambow, to Helen Hunt’s recent directorial debut, Then She Found Me. Classics span from Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 City of Lights to Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner: Finally, a War & Peace Weekend is planned for July 25-27 to show the original uncut Oscar winning 1968 four part film of Tolstoy’s epic. As Music Hall Film Coordinator Chris Curtis says, “Summer goes by fast - no film will show more than three days - be quick or you'll miss it!”
About “Africa on Film”
Africa has been a source of inspiration for filmmakers since cinema's earliest days. This summer's Wednesday series represents an overview of that history, from the naive entertainment of King Solomon's Mines and Tarzan and His Mate to the more complex Hotel Rwanda and Last King of Scotland of recent years. The large and culturally diverse continent of Africa lends itself to stories with big themes - the perils of globalization, the plundering and dwindling of natural resources, the persistence of racism and lingering effects of colonialism, ongoing tribal wars and poverty. It's also a continent of staggering natural beauty and rich spiritual and artistic culture. To see Africa from without and from within, through the fogged lens of the past and the sharper lens of the present, is to see disparities that have influenced culture on both sides of the ocean. We can feel nothing but gratitude for filmmakers such as Souleymane Cissé and Mahamet-Saleh Haroun and the artists in Nollywood (Nigeria's exploding film industry), for exploring and presenting their world in their own voices. Check www.themusichall.org for information and updates on special guests and discussions related to the series.
Purchasing SummerFilm tickets
SummerFilm tickets are $8.50 and are on sale a half hour before each film at The Music Hall box office, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Golden Tickets, which provide two admissions, two fountain drinks and one large popcorn for each and every SummerFilm movie, can be purchased at the Box Office starting May 1 for $300.
For information, call our 24-hour Film Line: 603-436-9900
Please note: Due to the renovation of our lower lobby, from July 1 - September 18, event ticket sales will be restricted to phone, internet and mail. SummerFilm tickets will be sold 1/2 hour before the start of each film at the outside box office window on Chestnut Street. There will be no elevator access.