26th Carthage Film Festival
Tunisia, November 21 - November 28 2015
At the 26th edition of the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, founded by Tahar Cheriaa in 1966, African cinema offered exciting and engaging proposals. The official competitions presented a range of films, including 17 features, 13 shorts and 16 documentaries. There was also some rich parallel sections, including World Cinema, New Territories, Spotlight Berlin, View On Tunisian Cinema, Argentinian Cinema, Italian Cinema, Tributes to Women Of Egyptian Cinema, FESPACO Screenings, Carthage Cine-Promesses, and several tributes to directors. Special screenings were also held at jails and the local university.
The festival was led this year by a completely new set of staff. The atmosphere was marked by the recent bombing in Tunis, but the Chairman and management decided to move forward with the festival, to show that “culture is a strategic weapon to combat terrorism.”
Foreign guests, press and jury were introduced to the the President of the Tunisian Republic, Beji Caid Essebsi, as well as Latifa Lakhdhar, Minister of Culture and Heritage Conservation. The President expressed his gratitude to the guests for having attended the festival despite the recent incident.
I will focus my observations on the major awards, since these provide an overview of the quality of filmmaking, which is still a relatively young art in Africa. The most significant award (Tanit d’or) went to The Blind Orchestra, a Moroccan film which managed to smoothly integrate several subjects: the nuances of teenage love, a passion for music, and systems of power – in this case, the monarchy of King Hassan II. This a nice movie with a depth of characterization, suitable for a wide audience.
The second prize (Tanit d’argent) was awarded to The Endless River. Director Oliver Hermanus’ talent is indisputable, but the story of two characters lost in misfortune and loneliness in the South African town of Riviersonderend is not especially striking.
The third prize (Tanit de bronze) was awarded to the Tunisian film As I Open My Eyes, which also won three other awards including the FIPRESCI Prize. This undeniably fresh film by Leyla Bouzid is dedicated to young Tunisians, to the strength of their freedom and to their families. This authoritative debut feature is set in the period before the revolution of 2010.
The award for best performance by a male actor went to Adlane Djemi for Madame Courage, playing an unstable loner who mugs people in the suburbs of Mostaganem. The actor’s performance, which represents a generation of fearless young Algerians, was very effective. Maimouna N’Diaye won best actress for her nuanced, acutely sensitive and intelligent work in Eye of the Storm. A special mention went to actress Nadia Kaci, for her powerful performance in Le Puits by Lofti Bouchouchi.
Ibrahim Letaief, director of the Festival, has strongly supported the presentation of Much Loved.. Banned in its home country of Morocco, it had its first screening in the Arab and African world here. This demonstrates the freedom of expression which is possible at the festival. The best short film was Diaspora – Tunisian director Alaeddin Abou Taleb gave this film an original rhythm. Best documentary was awarded to the Algerian film A Roundabout in My Head by Hassen Ferhani, about the largest slaughterhouse in Algiers.
In its second edition, the Takmil workshop allowed eleven African and Arab films in post-production to be evaluated by a jury of professionals. A financial prize is awarded, which gives young filmmakers visibility in the commercial world, in addition to the chance of being present at the next festival. (Roberto Tirapelle, edited by Lesley Chow)
Carthage Film Festival: www.jcctunisie.org