Robert Fuest
Release Year:
France / Chad
Tahir - Ahidjo Mahamet Moussa, Amine - Hamza Moctar Aguid, Achta - Zara Haroun, mute girl - Mounira Khalil, Uncle Adoum - Daego Mustapha Ngarade
Screening Date:
  • 8 Jan 2008
  • Categories:

    A moving story of two young boys’ search for their missing father and their attempt to make sense of their abandonment. The effortless cinematography is perfectly complemented by Ali Farka Touré’s stunning soundtrack.

    Film Notes

    Set in the writer-director's homeland, Chad, Abouna is the story of two young brothers' search for their father. It quickly becomes apparent that the man has abandoned the family without warning. The film is about the consequences of his action on his two sons: fifteen-year old Tahir and eight-year old Amine. In a touching early scene Amine is told by his mother that his father is "irresponsible". He looks the word up in a dictionary and discusses its meaning with his brother. Their interpretations of the ambiguous nature of responsibility go to the heart of the film... Despite its tough and at times tragic subject matter, Abouna maintains a relentlessly optimistic tone. Key dramatic incidents are captured with elliptical grace. The performances of the two young actors are natural and full of range and nuance. Complemented by a superb soundtrack by the Malian guitarist, Ali Farka Toure, Abouna is lucid, understated and moving.
    Josh Hillman - BBC 4 Cinema - 2002
    This beautiful, gentle and lucid film is rich in understated humanity. Abouna is a film about love and loss, imbued with a most profound tenderness towards children and childhood. It manages in the most remarkable way, to get extraordinary dramatic life-events in the lives of two young boys into just 81 minutes of screen time, while maintaining its walking-pace narrative. The performances are calm and deeply felt and so is the way they are shaped and photographed. There are lovely performances from the boys themselves made richer and more complex when one of them meets a beautiful silent girl; a late-flowering love story which is partly from the world of childhood and partly of adulthood.
    Peter Bradshaw - The Guardian - November 2002
    A small-scale carefully paced, well-observed study of modern African childhood. Through the accumulation of small detail, the director Haroun builds a believable textured vision of the brothers' lives, as they move from their original chaotic home near the Cameroon border to the stifling confines of the Koranic school. Though events take a darker turn there's much quirky humour along the way. But the intent is clearly very serious. Chad has been through all sorts of hardship and Haroun is careful to point out the specific factors shaping the boys' development (football, government, economics, the church, parents) and to do so with the minimum of fuss. There's clearly an allegorical level to his tale, the Arabic word abouna meaning our father in both the physical and spiritual sense as in English. Chad, like the brothers, feels abandoned, cut off from a previously all-controlling authority (perhaps God, perhaps the stifling, but stabilising hand of colonial power, France).
    Neil Young - Film Lounge - August 2002

    What you thought about Abouna

    Film Responses

    Excellent Good Average Poor Very Poor
    7 (26%) 13 (48%) 6 (22%) 1 (4%) 0 (0%)
    Total Number of Responses: 27
    Film Score (0-5): 3.96

    Collated Response Comments

    There were fewer responses than usual (despite a fairly full auditorium) and a wider range of viewpoints, although the weight of opinion in the excellent or good categories. On the very positive side the film was appreciated for its 'elliptical delicacy', 'subtle cinematography', 'excellent boy actors', 'great music', and 'wealth of emotion'. Many of you found it 'touching', 'moving', 'thoughtful', 'atmospheric', 'beautifully made', 'compelling and intimate', 'a sad but very human story'. But for some of you, Abouna was hard work: 'too slow', 'very disjointed', 'muddled', 'gentle, diverting and pointless', 'many moments that were very moving, but disappointing overall'. There were, in addition, five enthusiastic responses to the short Vagabond Shoes - 'excellent' (2), 'good' (2), 'enjoyable, light hearted and fun'.

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