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Sunday , September 19 2021

Film industry sees revival in post-revolution Tunisia

‘Amanda’ claims Tokyo Festival grand prize

TUNIS, Nov 3, (Agencies): Tunisian filmmakers are making the most of newfound freedoms to tackle issues banished for decades from the silver screen, prompting a post-revolution cinema revival.

“Since 2011, one of the most tangible benefits we’ve seen is the ability to talk about all topics, especially themes of society, our daily life, its complexity and its richness,” said producer Habib Attia.

“In cinema it pays to have that sincerity.”

Just two or three films a year were released during the 2000s, but the industry has rebounded since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

A dozen feature films are now made each year and new cinemas are opening up.

Some 200,000 people flocked to the cinema this year to watch “El Jaida” by filmmaker and activist Salma Baccar about the fight for women’s rights in Tunisia.

Such box office figures are the highest in 15 years, said Lassaad Goubantini, one of Tunisia’s leading film distributors.

Mehdi Barsaoui, a Tunisian director, said filmmakers are “no longer forced to skirt” rules imposed by the former regime “through unsaid things and metaphors”.

His first feature film examines organ trafficking between Tunisia and Libya in the chaos after the two countries’ revolutions, which is being shot in Tunisian studios and the country’s south.

“It’s in direct speech and with a form of authenticity that allows universal stories to be told with a local stamp,” he said, while filming at a squalid dormitory for trafficked children.

“The renaissance is due to the closeness of the writers” to reality, Barsaoui said. The country’s filmmakers have also seen success abroad, with Mohamed Ben Attia’s “Hedi”, a love story set in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, picking up an award at the 2016 Berlin film festival.


Last year, Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Beauty and the Dogs”, about a Tunisian woman seeking justice after being raped, was screened at Cannes before its international release.

Tunisian directors are also turning their attention to a reality rarely talked about by government officials – the radicalization of the country’s youth.

They include Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud’s “Fatwa”, due for release next year.

Ben Hania addresses the theme through the eyes of a father whose sons have gone to fight in Syria in “My Dear Son”, which was screened at the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.

The latter two titles have been chosen for the official competition at Tunisia’s own Carthage Film Festival, which runs from Nov 3-10.

Filmmakers are also experimenting with cinematic styles, such as silent film and mobile phone clips.

Another film featuring on the Carthage programme is “Dachra” by Abdelhamid Bouchnak, dubbed Tunisia’s first horror film.

Earlier this year, it was shown at critics’ week in Venice, a sidebar to the main festival that promotes emerging talent.

But creative clout is not enough to entirely revamp an industry, with the business side also needing modernization.

“Now each release is accompanied by promotional campaigns, previews, screenings with debates and screenings in the regions,” said Goubantini, the distributor.


LOS ANGELES: The Mikhael Hers-directed drama “Amanda”, about a man who ends up caring for his seven-year-old niece when her mother is killed, was awarded the Tokyo Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival’s closing ceremony today. The film also took the best screenplay award in the festival’s 31st edition, which runs Oct 25 to Nov 3.

“Amanda” premiered in competition at this year’s Venice Film Festival. But it left without a prize. It will release in Japan next year, through distributor Bitters End, the director said in a video message.

The second-place special jury prize went to Michael Noer’s “Before the Frost”. Unfolding in the 19th Century Danish countryside, the film previously screened in the contemporary world cinema section at Toronto.

Italy’s Edoardo De Angelis was named best director for “The Vice of Hope”, a drama set in the Naples sex industry. The best actress honors went to Pina Turco, who played a trafficker of surrogate mothers in “The Vice of Hope”. Meanwhile, Jesper Christensen received the best actor award for his performance as a hard-bitten farmer in “Before the Frost”.

Among other prizes were the award for best artistic contribution, given to Ralph Fiennes’ “The White Crow”, and the audience award, scooped by Junji Sakamoto’s friendship drama “Another World”, one of two local films in competition.

In the Asian Future section for new Asian films “A First Farewell”, the feature debut by China’s Lina Wang, won the best film award, while in the Japanese Cinema Splash section for local indie films another first-timer, Katsumi Nojiri, took best film honors for “Lying to Mom”. The best director prize was split by Masaharu Take for “The Gun” and Seiji Tanaka for “Melancholic”.

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