"Dry Season": Humanistic Response to a Fraught Situation By Peter Krausz

in 3rd Adelaide Film Festival

by Peter Krausz

Eventually two films emerged as the strongest in the FIPRESCI field of first- or second-time filmmakers. It is worth commenting that both of these films deal with post-war impact on individuals, and the lasing legacy that people face in coping with wartime atrocities. What is even more remarkable, is that Grbavica (directed byJasmila Zbanic) focused on women surviving and coping with the Bosnian/Croatian conflict, while Dry Season (Daratt, directed by Mahamat Saleh-Haroun) focused on men coping with the Chad civil war and ways of seeking revenge for those atrocities. The former film was quite gentle, lyrical and emotional in dealing with the situation, focusing on a mother/daughter relationship, while the latter was a male-orientated, violence and retribution oriented story with a father/son relationship the core of the narrative.

The winning film, Dry Season, is a deceptively simple film about a young man who is unable to cope with the Chad government’s decision to grant amnesty to all criminals after the war. His own father had been mercilessly killed during the war and the young man had to seek revenge by tracking down his father’s killer. That he discovers that the perpetrator of this crime is a humble baker, is one of the many plot developments in a film that very subtly portrays the redemptive changes in the young man as he learns more about this baker while working with him plotting his revenge.

This coalescing of victim and target unfolds with minimal dialogue, the director Mahamat Saleh Haroun instead focusing on internal factors, character development and the power of change, redemption and forgiveness (found in many of the recent South African films such as Forgiveness, that deal with similar subject matter from a male perspective). What sets this film apart is that hate can give way to acceptance and forgiveness in a logical and humanly appropriate manner, with the film providing a beautifully modulated and paced approach to a complex story.

The film has a universality that audiences world-wide can respond to, without having to understand the historical issues involved in the Chad civil war. The use of non-professional actors in the film, intensifies further the impact of the story and the final scene, that acts as a cathartic and deeply humanistic response to a fraught situation.

It is also worth noting that the film was commissioned by the Viennese New Crowned Hope Festival under the directorship of Peter Sellars (who had inaugurated, with Bridget Ikin in Adelaide in 2002 the Adelaide Film Festival investment fund that has now borne fruit at this festival), with a brief to have films produced that responded to the masterworks created during the last year of Mozart’s life: “The Magic Flute”, “La Clemenza di Tito” and “Requiem”. Six features and one short film were produced, with the FIPRESCI winner at Adelaide this year, Dry Season, being one of them.

Dry Season is a fine example of humanistic filmmaking that provides important messages to the audience, while at the same time reflecting an economical and compelling filmmaking style that resonates in its surface narrative and underlying universal story.