TIFF 2016: Hissein Hibré: A Chadian Tragedy Review


No words can do justice for what the victims of the Chadian genocide suffered in the 1980s under the rule of Hissein Habré. My TIFF program notes indicate that Habré was charged with crimes against humanity in May 2016. These included sexual slavery, torture, and the ordered killing of 40,000 people.

This essential documentary shines a light on the efforts of Clément Aboïfouta, a survivor of this regime who came out seeking revenge but dedicated his life to supporting victims. An important aspect of Aboïfouta’s work is mediating peace and forgiveness between victims and their past tormentors. 

At the beginning of the film, we see one such encounter. Three men are sitting on a bench. Clément is in the middle. To our left is the victim, who had been beaten severely by the man on the right – so severely that his wounds are still present today. The attacker wonders why he in particular was singled out – apparently there was a mob involved in the victim’s beating – and states that he was just a dog unleashed and told to attack, so he did. The real blame, he argues – non-withstanding the important precedent set by the Nuremberg Trials – should go to the higher-up who gave him the orders. To say that there is still tension in Chad would be a laughable understatement. Yet, a miracle – the men are side by side and talking.


Watching this film is not easy, nor should it be. People suffered and we owe it to humanity to look that suffering in the eye and ensure that it does not happen again. The director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun stated that he chose to tell this film now since Habré’s trial was imminent (the culmination of a 25 year effort) and that provided the documentary with structure and closure. He wanted to allow Chadians to tell their story, not the media or the humanitarian workers. Both Haroun and Aboïfouta as well as many others give a voice to the voiceless of Chad, and the least we can do is read the subtitles.


Saturday Sept. 17, 8:45pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3