CANNES, France – Overtly social issues-based cinema risk are boring unless you’re a Ken Loach in which case it’s not boring. Everyone knows, everyone is aware. As filmmaker you’ll need to up the ante, a little. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, with his new film “Lingui,” appears to have not done this.
Amina lives with her fifteen year-old daughter Maria in a suburb of N’Djamena. Her world falls apart after she learns that her teenage daughter is pregnant. Amina herself had, in fact, experienced the same situation fifteen years earlier before being ostracized from her family.
She helps her daughter get an abortion, in a country, with a religion, where this is frowned upon. Fortunately, the lack of a family around them makes their enterprise, stealthy and near-desperate, go easier.
Back in competition in Cannes eight years after “Grigris,” Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has crafted a coherent but conventional portrait of contemporary Chad that squeezes its magical setting, the African continent, for all it’s got.
Overtly social issues-based cinema risk are boring unless you’re a Ken Loach in which case it’s not boring. And even though his clear-eyed directorial gaze makes “Lingui” an easy watch, the film advancing wisely towards its ending, the screenplay could fit in three sentences: young woman gets pregnant, she needs an abortion, her mother helps her to get said abortion. The film feels mechanical, like something the U.N. might have commissioned as part of its sustainable development goals, a set of measures design to lift people out of poverty and improve their station in life.
Here, world, is what happens when a Chadian woman wishes to get an abortion. Except that, the world knows already. In this hyper-informed world, merely pairing the dismaying facts with a story isn’t really sufficient, exotic locale or not.