TIFF 2017: A Season in France

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Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has an uncanny ability of exploring the impacts of war in a poetic way. He displayed this in both A Screaming Man and the documentary Hissein Habré, A Chadian Tragedy, and he does so again with his latest work A Season in France. The story follows Abbas (Eriq Ebouaney), a refugee who is trying to build a life for himself and his kids in France after fleeing the horrors of Bangui. Once a respected French teacher, Abbas is now unpacking vegetables at a local market while he waits for his request for asylum to be processed.

Haunted by the murder of his wife, and stressed over how he will provide for his children, Abbas finds it difficult to move forward with the new life he wants to have with his French girlfriend Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire). Abbas is not alone in this struggle, his brother Etienne (Bibi Tanga), a former philosophy teacher, is barely coping in his attempts to retain some dignity while working as a security guard and living out of a shack.

Presenting a touching examination of the refugee experience, Haroun constructs a meditative look at the bureaucracy and hardship that many individuals currently face. Life in France should provide hope for the future, but it has its own stifling problems. In the case of Abbas and Etienne, there is a certain emasculating quality to their encounters in Paris. One that even manifest itself in the impotence that Etienne experiences.

As heartbreaking as their situations are, especially when Abbas informs his children, Yacine (Ibrahim Burama Darboe) and Asma (Aalayna Lys), that they must move yet again, Haroun still manages to squeeze the faint scent of optimism into the film. Through the relationship that Abbas has with Carole, Haroun effectively conveys the idea that love has the power to provide light in our darkest hours. While we are left to ponder what will happen to Abbas and his kids, one hopes that they will one day find the peaceful sense of normalcy that they all so desperately seek.