By John Owoo
(In Tunis – Tunisia)
The 27th edition of Carthage Film Festival, a fiesta dedicated to Arab and African filmmakers ended last week in the Tunisian capital Tunis, after seminars, lectures and screenings of over 100 films.
It witnessed a dynamic parade of Arab and African film directors including Jamil Rateb, Khaled El Nabawy, Ezzat El Alayeli, Nahed El Ashley, Yosra El Lozy, Mohammed Malas, Ola Balogun, Michel Khlefi, Timité Bassori, Kaled Sadik, Djingarey Maiga and Adel Imam.
Held under tight security owing to fear of possible attacks by terrorists or extremists, the festival enabled a creative brainstorm on the issue of preserving Arab / African film heritage, which has been the subject of several international conferences and symposia.
Diverse films tackled various subjects that range from the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Palestinian issue, identity, war and peace as critics debated the overall quality of the 27th edition, which most film lovers see as a huge success.
“I was impressed with the involvement of young filmmakers, actors and actresses from various parts of Africa and the Arab world – nevertheless Tunisia does not fully appreciate the fact that it holds the key to African integration through culture”, said Chieck Oumar Sissoko a Malian film maker.
“With war and violence in several parts of the world, film brings a ray of light that guides us and leads us towards peace due its power – I am delighted to be part of this wonderful festival and hope it’s impact would be felt all over the world”, added Mohamed Hédi, a Tunisian academic.
The symposium raised several issues including a review of the evolution of thinking about conservation policies and safeguarding film heritage, role of film archives as a tool of resistance, resilience and therapy as well as problems relating to ongoing projects in the field of conservation and safeguarding of film heritage in Europe, North and Sub Saharan Africa.
It equally touched on questions relating to private, public, national and international plans that have already been initiated, made a review of deficit of institutions specializing in the preservation of film heritage as well as projects underway and the obstacles they are encountering.
Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania won the grand prize for her feature-length documentary “Zaineb Hates the Snow”. Shot over a six-year period, the film follows a young Tunisian girl’s difficult passage to adolescence after she moves to Quebec from Tunisia shortly after the death of her father in an accident.
Egyptian film-maker Mohamed Diab’s “Clash” – which captures Egypt’s divided post-revolutionary society, won four awards: the second prize in the feature competition as well as best cinematography, best editing and the Critics prize while Palestinian director Mai Masri took the third prize in the feature film competition for “3,000 Nights”.
“I can foresee a turning point for the Carthage Film Festival – I guess it is increasingly becoming commercial – and this would be regrettable. I think we should maintain the festival as it is and continue to open up to Arab and African filmmakers”, said Fethi Saidi, a Tunisian documentary filmmaker.
“Organizing festivals of this magnitude is complicated – nevertheless, I think we need to improve the technical department so we can avoid problems during screening to ensure that members of juries are able to see all films”, continued Iddrissa Ouedraogo, a Burkinabe filmmaker.
Undeniably, the Carthage Film Festival remains the most popular for Arab and African filmmakers, actors, actresses and film lovers – and it continues to maintain the enviable record of having the largest number of participants and moviegoers.
Pictures – Carthage Film Festival