Mahamat- Saleh Haroun
You’re the President of the Jury in Locarno for first and second-time directors in Concorso Cineasti del presente. How do you spot the winner?
Now, all these films have something in common: they are very touching, there is a lot of innocence and sincerity here, freshness and dreams. In the jury we want to be surprised, moved, if not shocked, then shaken – we are looking for a filmmaker who has a powerful point-of-view, talking about his or her own place of culture, and at the same time about us.
You have yourself won several prizes. Can you calculate your way to a success?
No, cinema is always a mystery – and if not it would be uninteresting to make films. You should keep the spirit of the first filmmakers who started shooting without really knowing what they would get out of it – and suddenly, here was the magic. You cannot predict whether a script will become a film that sells tickets or wins awards – in cinema 2 + 2 = not always 4. Anyway, a prize is never a goal in itself; a good filmmaker should be like his films – sincere. If you are sincere in what you say, people will believe you, and that is what counts.
There are not that many film directors in Chad. What made you decide to become a filmmaker?
I saw my first film in a cinema I was nine – it was an old Bollywood movie, and at some stage there was this Indian actress who was smiling to the audience, and I believed she was smiling to me. It was sort of a revelation, it was a magical moment, and I knew this was what I would like to do. Then, as a teenager I watched Roberto Rossellini’s Roma città aperta, and I understood that cinema was not just images, he was telling this story to me, talking about his friends; I wanted to be like him, talking about my neighbourhood.
And you took the first Chad film to Cannes and won the first Chad award?
I always said cinema can make changes, and that film certainly did it. The government was so excited it decided to open a movie theatre in the capital of N’Djamena, after the country had been without cinemas in 30 years because of the civil war – there we screened A Screaming Man. And it has further set aside €7 million for a film school, which will start construction in October.
Last year you did jury duties in Cannes, now Locarno. What about new films?
In October I will begin shooting Gris-Gris in Chad, about a young dancer with a limp, whom I met in Burkina Faso. He was in a professional group – he will play a street dancer, in a love story where he meets a 17-year-old prostitute, and it is a film full of hope.