For the first time in the history of Carthage Film Festival (JCC), Tunisia had four films in the official competition of feature films and documentaries. The films were Zaineb Hates the Snow (Zaineb takrahou athalj) by Kaouther Ben Henia, Chouf by Karim Dridi, Tomorrow at Dawn (Ghodwa hay) by Lotfi Achour and Thala My Love by Mehdi Hmili. This abundance contradicts the statutes that stipulate that the festival’s official competition can not include more than two films from each country. Should we change the statutes? This decision remained unexplained. Senegal, Morocco, Egypt and Syria were represented with two films each. Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Chad had only one film in competition. The festival, which used to by biannual, had just become annual – a choice that is not fitting for the Carthage festival, since Tunisian production, African and Arabic, is not as plentiful as one might think. In 2014, for example, there was only one Tunisian film in the competition – Bidoun 2 by Jilani Saadi. It seems that the number of Tunisian films competing in Carthage is somehow important for the organizers.
Zaineb Hates the Snow is a documentary in which the filmmaker follows the path of a nine year old girl, who journeys to Canada with her mother who married a Tunisian working overseas after the accidental death of her first husband. The film beautifully oscillates between documentary and fiction – the story has the rhythm of a fiction film, but the life of a Tunisian family is filmed on the spot, untouched. The passage from Tunisia to a very different culture is experienced by Zaineb internally and externally.
In Chouf, director Karim Dridi continues to follow for more than twenty years the ugly world of the “ghetto” of North African immigrants in the suburbs of French cities. The realities of drug trafficking in these neighborhoods is exposed. It also reveals the corruption of a police brigade that resells the goods and the reign of unprecedented violence. By the end of the film, the dead are too many to count. The film, cast with non-professional actors, focuses on the character of Sofian, who was a brilliant student before he became a dealer, and now plans to avenge the murder of his brother.
Tomorrow at Dawn recounts the events of the night of January 14th, 2011 – the day of the revolution. It tells the story of a friendship between a journalist, a young Franco-Tunisian and a teenager who share the same fate in that historic night. The film leaves us with a touch of hope for a better future after years of dictatorship.
The fourth film, Thala My Love, is the story of an impossible love between a man and a woman who find themselves in the city of Thala in North-Western Tunisia in the heart of the painful events experienced after the outbreak of the revolution in Tunisia. The film draws a parallel between a love story that reawakens after many years and the popular uprising that caused several casualties and injuries. It is not easy to follow both the revolutionary aspect and the love story. Yet the courage of the woman holds the film together.
Edited by Yael Shuv
© FIPRESCI 2016