"Brotherhood" – a Greek Tragedy in Tunisia

in 25th Short Film Festival in Drama

by Giannis Fragoulis

For a whole week the short film pulse bit in Drama, Northern Greece. Greek directors shared an informal dialogue with their foreign colleagues’ work. The audience had the chance to study the new Greek cinema at its birth and at the same time obtain an overall image of the international short film cinematography.

Parallel events included the 1st International Performance Art Forum, the Comics Festival, special features to national cinematography, and presentations of writers – not only script writers – and directors who participated in the Festival.

The FIPRESCI jury focused on the international section and it was extremely difficult for us to select three films out of which only one will be declared the winner. There were many good films and the best were enough to make our choice more difficult. But what a pleasant hardship that was. The subjects of these films were inspired by real problems people face all over the world. It was extremely important watching these problems through different ways of approach, letting our fantasy create its own text. Such an awesome experience. This is how cinema makes us feel. This is what cinema is all about.

The collaboration with the colleagues of the jury was remarkable. Through a productive dialogue that followed the screenings, we finally came to a decision. Our criteria were strict. Our decision was taken after great consideration so that we wouldn’t be unfair to any of the films.

We finally chose these three films: Lake of Happiness, by Aliaksei Paluyan, coproduction of Belarus, Germany and Spain; Tatoo, by Farhad Delaram, Iran; Brotherhood, by Meryam Joobeur, coproduction of Tunisia, Canada and Sweden

In Lake of Happiness, Aliaksei Paluyan smoothly describes the psychological problem of Jasja, a nine year old girl who is confined to an orphanage after her mother is gone. The girl’s meeting with her father, on his wedding day with his second wife, is painful. The memory of the mother is stronger than the sweet, likeable stepmother. She will end up again in the orphanage where she will meet a little boy. Her future is now the orphanage.

We were impressed by the tremendous economy of speech, the strict structure of character and the superb aesthetics that reminded us of several Hungarian films. The landscape depicts the mental world of the heroes.

Farhad Delaram, in his film Tatoo, simply and neo-realistically describes the adventure of an Iranian woman who just wants to renew her driving license.

The cause of her unpleasant experience are the tattoos on her body. Basically, totalitarianism and the civil servants strictness and obsession over forms create the canvas of a theocratic society in which it is too easy for someone to be sent to prison. Too easy for a life to be ruined. Silence, in this case, is gold.

The winning film, Brotherhood by Meryam Joobeur, is characterized by the simplicity and depth of character analysis that  reaches the heights of a Greek Tragedy. It deals with touchstones of the development of Democracy in the western world.

A family of shepherds in Tunisia try hard to cope with everyday life. The son, a soldier who fought against ISIS, returns from Syria bringing along his new pregnant wife. We soon find out that the biological father of this unborn child is an ISIS fighter. After a terrible fight with his son, the father of the family calls the police but when he regrets his deed and tries to find and protect him, it is too late.

The film takes its time to build the characters but when it wants to describe familiar issues or startle us, it uses the economy of speech to manage its purpose.

Here we have an antithesis: the son fights against ISIS and he is a fighter for the imposition of the paternal authority, according to Islam. His father imposes the paternal authority on his own family. Totalitarianism exists in both cases. We watch the father who as Agamemnon sacrifices his son but in this case everything is different. According to the Atreides myth, the father gets the power, but here is a beginning of a new history: violence is irrational and blind. It is basically the violence of state authority as we experience it in contemporaneous societies, worldwide.

The director surprised us with her clarity, economy and deep character analysis in her third film. Her cinematic language is effective, pithy, rich in references to mythic elements. The director suggests and does not impose her narration. The spectator can deepen in a contemporaneous tragedy that takes place all over the world every single day. Thus, the spectator experiences directly this modern drama.

With great excitement, we expect the director’s next film, to see the development of her art.

This film also won the Grand Prix, the prize for the best film in the International Competitive Section.

Giannis Fragoulis
Edited by Yael Shuv