Director of the astonishing Abouna, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s latest film Daratt (Dry Season) screens to audiences this March and April at the World Cinema Showcase. He shares his thoughts with ALEXANDER BISLEY.

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Abouna can be summed up in one word: masterpiece. How much do I like Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s second, 2002 film? Better than Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story and Abbas Kiarostami’s work. Abouna, which translates as Our Father, is a rare sophisticated insight into Africa. It’s luxuriously specific, yet powerfully universal. Tahir (Ahidjo Mahamet Moussa), 15, and Amine (Hamza Moctar Aguid), 8, are desperate to find their father, after he suddenly leaves their home in Chad, Africa. The boys think they see him in a movie at the local theatre and steal the print. Their mother, who can’t cope, catches them unspooling the reel at home. They are sent to a harsh Islamic school in the countryside. Tahir develops a relationship with a gorgeous mute girl; Amine struggles with his asthma. The actors are luminous, especially the wonderful young Aguid. Abraham Haile Biru’s cinematography is breathtaking. The seductive images are enhanced by Diego Mustapha N’Garade and Ali Farka Toure’s guitar music, which is almost as glorious as the settings’ green and orange incandescence. Abouna flows gently, rivetingly. It has a delightful sense of humour, such as “the water’s cut” scene. There are some magnificent scenes: from the shot of motherly tenderness towards Amine to the debate over the meaning of “irresponsible”, the epithet mum has given dad. Abouna’s deeply, devastatingly touching. It’s vibrant, lyrical, uplifting.

Daratt (Dry Season), Haroun’s third film, is a spare, powerful look at the futility of utu. In a rare interview, I caught up with Haroun via email from Paris.

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How have Chad audiences responded to Daratt?

Very well. The film has been acclaimed. Audience members have said “this is our reality, it’s our daily life. Traditionally, you have to kill your father’s killer, but the film shows us another way”. I want them to take away this simple message of tolerance: revenge does not resolve the problem.

Both Abouna and Daratt employ a strong visual style. They need to be seen on the big screen, don’t they?

Yes, absolutely. Because the big screen is what makes me dream my images. It’s a painting where I put my different colours and lights.

Who are your inspirations? What is hope?

Life and some great artists like Chaplin, Kiarostami, Kurosawa, Eastwood, but also African music, especially kora played by the Malian Toumani Diabate [who play at WOMAD]. Hope is a smile of a baby...

What role does music like Toumani Diabate play in Daratt?

Music like Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Toure plays as a sense of rhythm, the deep soul of the Sahel.

Describe your creative philosophy?

Human being is the centre of all.

What makes a work “successful”?

The sincerity we put into it.

You’re still based in Paris? What do you miss about Chad?

Yes, I am still in Paris. What I miss about Chad? My family, the smell of the country, the light of the rising sun early in the morning.

What are some of your favourite recent films?

There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men and Into the Wild.

I see connections between There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men and Daratt. What connections do you see?

Maybe wide landscape, a certain influence of western movies, but also the desire of finding the end of violence...

Technology is ever advancing. How will this effect film?

Digital means less technicians on the set, more liberty and independence.

There are some wonderful homages to cinema in your work. What community role should film have?

Film should spread more light to let people know each other more.

Your future film plans?

Short called Expectations for Jeonju International Film Festival 2008 in Korea and a feature untitled African fiasco. It’s a secret story, I don’t want to reveal it now. It’s a political thriller set in Paris, Dakar, and Rotterdam, with international cast. Shooting next fall.