25th Carthage Film Festival
Tunisia, November 29 - December 6 2014
Les Journées cinematographiques de Carthage (JCC) is the oldest film festival in the African continent and in the Arab speaking world. It was initiated in 1966 by filmmaker Tahar Cheriaa and by Chedi Klibi, then Tunisian minister of Culture, as a link between films made in Africa, north and south of Sahara, as well as between all Arabic speaking countries from Iraq in the east to Morocco in the west. Apart from Arabic, it’s second language is French.
In the past it was held every two years, but as of its 25th edition in 2014 it has become annual. Today it runs four competitive sections, all devoted to African and Arab films; feature films, documentaries, short features, and finally one national competition for films made in Tunisia. It also contains a special section of children’s films, a rarity for any festival.
The sidebars are numerous and ambitious, including international outlooks to the best of recent world cinema as well as retrospectives like the ones in 2014 dedicated to Maurice Pialat and Stephen Frears, with carefully chosen highlights from their careers, and a program of Romanian films.
One retrospective is always devoted to highlight a filmmaker from Africa and/or the Arab world. In 2014 it was dedicated to Tunisian director, writer, story-teller, sculptor, painter Nacer Khemir. A special tribute was paid to Syrian documentary filmmaker Omar Amiralay, a very active civil rights fighter in the Syrian democratic opposition until his death in February 2011.
Others honored in the latest editions of JCC were Souleymane Cissé from Mali (2012), Lebanese director Ghassan Salhab (2010) and the late great French producer Humbert Balsan (2008).
Modelled after Cinemart in Rotterdam, the Takmil Workshop, meaning “finishing” in Arabic, has been in action since 1992. Within the framework of JCC it aims to allow African and Arab projects in post-production to be assessed by cinema professionals. After viewing selected works in progress, an international jury will offer their expertise and award post-production grants to the most promising projects.
In all: JCC is the perfect festival to get a closer look at what’s going on in Africa and the Arab speaking world yesterday, today and tomorrow. Even more so when it turns annual. It is friendly, extremely popular among the locals, centered in the heart of Tunis with nine cinemas on or around Avenue Habib Bourguiba but also spreading to the satellite cities.
And above all, as JCC director Dora Bouchoucha and artistic director Ikbal Zalila correctly claim, it is and will continue to be a labratory of freedoms, both artistic and political. (Eva af Geijerstam)
Carthage Film Festival: www.jcctunisie.org