James Bowman: Atim is himself not obviously politically involved, but his blind grandfather Oumar Abatcha (Khayar Oumar Defallah) summons him to tell him that, in the absence of justice from the state, the boy is going to have to take vengeance against his father’s murderer. He carefully unwraps an automatic pistol and presents it to him. “This belonged to your father,” he tells him. “It has not been used for a long time.” He also warns him that the man he must kill, Nassara (Youssouf Djaoro), is a dangerous character. Then he sends the boy off to the capital, N’Djamena, to find him.
It’s a nice touch to have Nassara confirming Atim’s grandfather’s judgment of him, but in a context that utterly changes our understanding of its meaning. For he is also dangerous to the Abatcha family’s project of revenge by being so obviously decent and humane and penitent. A lot of the credit has to go to the immensely dignified and watchable performance of Mr. Djaoro as Nassara. It is easy to see how Atim might be overawed by him, even without the personal relationship that has developed between them, and begin to get a bit of Western-style perspective on the primitive honor-culture’s demand for vengeance.
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