France, 2013, 101 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Chad
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Drama, French/French Canadian, Music
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: French, Arabic English Sub-Titles

Honored for Antoine Heberle’s handsome cinematography at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Grigris is the latest feature from Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, one of the most important African directors to emerge since the mid-1990s. With the understatement and placidity typical for the author of Daratt and A Screaming Man (a 2010 SDFF selection), Grigris tells the story of an aspiring dancer of the same name (Souleymane Deme) as he navigates the financial consequences of his stepfather’s failing health and a new relationship with would-be model Mimi (Anaïs Monory).

The camera identifies closely with Grigris throughout: paralyzed in one leg, his “crablike gait” is emphasized, whether he is using his disability to his rhythmic advantage at the throbbing discotheque—when Grigris is at its most transcendent—or fighting against his limp as he attempts to outmaneuver pursuing lawmen. Mimi, too, is defined first by her body, and not only because of her professional goals or even the lingerie photo shoot in which she is introduced to viewers: the comely, half-French, Afro-wigged heroine is forced to sell her body to a lecherous, cross-racial collection of pawing johns.

New perhaps for Haroun, there is an emergent feminism in Grigris, which finds its fullest expression in the nearly all-female final act. Moving out of an often nocturnal urban geography, shot elegantly in low key, Haroun’s sisterly conclusion takes place instead in a picturesque African savanna.

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DIRECTOR: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Producer: Florence Stern
Editor: Marie-Helene Dozo
Cinematographer: Antoine Heberle
Principal Cast: Souleymane Deme, Anais Monory, Cyril Guei, Marius Yelolo

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