I Make Movies Not for Money, But for My People: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

I Make Movies Not for Money, But for My People:  Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

Violence shouldn’t be used as a common way towards dealing with problems, and there should be open spaces for discussions everywhere, ChadMinister for film and Culture Mr. Mahamat Saleh Haroun has said.

Talking to Veena Hariharan, film academic and critic from the Jawaharlal Nehru University,at a session organized as part of the 22nd International Film Festival of Kerala, he said he doesn’t make movies to make money at the box office, but for his country and its people.

It was through Mahamat’s movies that the world came to know about the small African country called Chad and the brutalities its people faced during the civil war in 1979. Mahamat is being honoured as one of the Contemporary Masters in Focus at the 22nd IFFK.

Cinema is something more than the box office and making money. Sometimes it has to be political. The films we had been seeing were those from Hollywood and Bollywood in the beginning. We didn’t have a movie of our own and we remained silent in the darkest continent, he pointed out.


“There are people who speak very good Hindi in my country because of the Bollywood movies they have watched. There are even people who celebrate the Indian Independence Day, because of this influence. And, there are many like me who are great admirers of Amitabh Bacchan because I grew up watching him fight against injustice around. We know Satyajit Ray, Sasi Kapoor and all. But no movie was there to portray the brutalities my country and people had been subjected to,” Mr. Mahamat Saleh Haroun said.

My movies try to bring the real life situations of my people to the front. The politics is there in the deep background. We don’t have many women in our cinema. They face opposition from their families and society. I personally know a Muslim women in my country against whom a religious fatwa was issued for acting in movies. Unlike India,we don’t have a censor board in our country, because we truly don’t have that many number of movies. No government in our country wants to spend money on that. We have begun considering movies seriously only now. I can say there is a kind of strong censorship from the part of the society and religion and that is why women are afraid to come forward, he said.

The young people in Chad right now are very enthusiastic about movies. As a minister, I am doing everything I can to help them. I have been assigned the task of building a film school in the capital, which I wish to complete by next year. There is only one cinema theatre in our capital N’Djamena, where more than 1 million people live. This should change, he added.

I don’t make movies out of nostalgia, but I do it out of melancholy – because I can’t afford to be nostalgic. I consider making movies my duty towards my nation rather than an artistic expression. Because if I don’t do that, even our spirits will be colonized. My films try to capture the real ‘moment’, he said.