African director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's austere, hypnotic third feature—also known as Dry Season—explores the legacy of Chad's decades-long civil war. When Chad's government grants amnesty to civil war criminals, 16-year-old Atim (Ali Bacha Barkaï) decides that justice lies in his own hands: With his blind grandfather's blessing, he sets out to avenge his father's death. The nature of revenge quickly becomes central when Atim finds the killer in question, Nassara, running a bakery with his pregnant wife. After a halting confrontation with his nemesis, who himself bears war wounds and an equally crippling loneliness, Atim agrees to become Nassara's apprentice, and a strange, stubborn impasse forms between them. Barkaï gives a defiant performance as a boy abandoned by God and country; Nassara insists that God has abandoned him also, and his unspoken pleas for the boy's mercy make their burgeoning relationship fascinating to watch.
Barkaï (left) hunts a killer (Youssouf Djaoro).
Runs at SIFF Cinema, Fri., July 27–Thurs., Aug. 2. Not rated. 96 minutes.