(French and Tumachek dialogue)
A visually lush, exotically set boy’s own adventure story, “Imuhar: A Legend” gently educates viewers as its protagonist learns firsthand about his desert-nomadic paternal roots. The leisurely pacing and low-key narrative make director Jacques Dubuisson’s feature a pleasure better suited for adolescents and adults than young children; theatrical biz seems assured in central European terrain, with broadcast sales likely casting a wider net.
Eleven-year-old Khenan (the very photogenic Ibrahim Paris) has spent his life in Paris, raised by a French mother and Nigerian father. But when the former dies of causes unmentioned, Najem takes his son to the Sahara where his Imuhar (or Touareg, as French colonials redubbed them) clan lives much as they have for centuries.
Watched over by grandfather Kenuni, Khenan enjoys learning the traditions, rituals and daily tasks of this communal, transient life. But he feels shame when the camel he’s riding in a race falls and must be killed. Running off into the desert, he’s rescued by a passing truck driver, then returned to camp by Hamou. Latter is from another tribe, raising complications when he wins the heart of beautiful cousin Chadema, who is already promised to a clan member.
This mute contest between suitors provides the only real narrative tension. Not much is made of Khenan’s grief over his mother or his culture shock (a non-event, it seems); nor does helmer Dubuisson eke much excitement from staging the few “action” segs, like the camel accident or a smaller boy’s scorpion-stung demise.
But the pic is always engaging, painting an attractive picture of this stoic desert life via Antoine Roch’s filter-heavy lensing, which captures the beauties of Sahara nature and richly colored Imuhar garb to eye-filling effect. Another big plus is the world-music soundtrack of both traditional and multicultural pop sounds.
Perfs are fine (though cultural differences may make characters seem rather too emotionally guarded to Western auds), and tech aspects first-rate.