A Season in France

 

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Another deeply felt contemporary work by Chad's best-known filmmaker.

 
Season in France, A

Eriq Ebouaney and Sandrine Bonnaire 

 

This is the seventh full-length feature film to be made by Mahamet-Saleh Haroun and the first not to be set in his native Chad. This time his story takes place in Paris, yet this work is entirely in keeping with what has preceded it. As with all of his films, we are aware of the great human compassion behind it and in his finest achievement, 2010's A Screaming Man, Haroun created a masterpiece. A Season in France is not on that level, but it is a deeply sympathetic portrait of the travails of two brothers from Bangui in the Central African Republic. Fleeing from wars there, these two have hoped to be able to settle in Paris even if the jobs available to them there do not match up with their standing as teachers back home.

 

Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney) is a widower whose wife (Sandra Nkake) has been slain and he now works in a fruit  market to support their two young children, Yacine (Ibrahim Burama Darboe), who is all of eleven, and Asma (Aalayna Lys) who is younger still. In contrast, Etienne (Bibi Tanga) is a loner, but both men have built relationships in Paris, Abbas with Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire) who is of Polish descent and Etienne with Martine (Léonie Simaga). However, in both cases the fact that the men are under stress due to lacking the necessary papers and on account of what they have already undergone, threatens the stability of their lives.

 

Haroun, working in a style that will remind some of the work of our own Ken Loach, adopts an unhurried, realistic tone that rejects any sense of built-up melodrama. His cast faithfully give him exactly what he needs, be it the unforced expression of the bond between Abbas and Etienne, the naturalness of the children or the quiet detail with which Sandrine Bonnaire inhabits the role of Carole. There is one scene of sudden drama based on a real-life incident which achieves real force without losing the sense of authenticity, but it may be that the film is just a little too laid back in tone and that the central characters are so drawn that they appeal to our sympathy just a little too easily. Certainly, there was more impact in A Screaming Man but Haroun's concern for the plight of immigrants is so embedded that one's sympathies are definitely engaged. The film was, in fact, made in 2017 and other movies dealing with the immigrant experience have preceded the arrival here of this one so that the subject, while tragically as relevant as ever, is decidedly familiar by now. However, Haroun does find a way of concluding his inevitably downbeat story with a scene which, remaining true to the underplayed tone of the film as a whole, broadens the scope of the tale from a personal one to something that resonates more widely.

 

Original title: Une saison en France.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Eriq Ebouaney, Sandrine Bonnaire, Aalayna Lys, Ibrahim Burama Darboe, Bibi Tanga, Léonie Simaga, Régine Conas, Khampha Thammavongsa, Sandra Nkake.

 

Dir Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, Pro Florence Stern, Screenplay Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, Ph Mathieu Giombini, Pro Des Éric Bardoza, Ed Jean-François Elie, Music Wasis Diop, Costumes Agnès Noden.

 

Pili Films/Arte France Cinéma/Canal+/Ciné+/TV5 Monde-New Wave Films.
101 mins. France. 2017. Rel: 14 June 2019. Cert. 12A.