McMillan-Stewart Fellow 2007-08, 2008-09
Born in Chad in 1961, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun left the country during the civil war of the 1980s and relocated to France, by way of Cameroon. There he worked as a journalist before studying at the Conservatoire Libre du Cinéma in Paris. He is now more than a dozen years into his career as a filmmaker, shooting primarily in Chad. This career has so far produced three feature films and a number of shorts that have made Haroun one of the leading lights in African cinema. He excels at spinning narratives that begin with easily recognizable situations – usually the loss of a parent – and expand to encompass allegorical and political reflection on the state of Chadian society. Often calm on the surface, Haroun’s filmmaking belies this calm with simmering strains of anger and melancholy. While occasionally compared to the work of Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, perhaps because of their deceptively quiet surfaces, Haroun’s films recognizably belong to an African tradition of filmmaking stretching from Ousmane Sembene to Abderrahmane Sissako that considers the place of cinema in a postcolonial Africa and, by extension, in a postcolonial world.