Carthage Film Festival celebrates once again the cinema of Arabs and Africa


A person familiar with the work of the Carthage Festival, which started its new session yesterday (Saturday), revealed that some other festivals in the Arab neighborhood pay cash in exchange for the filmmaker not going to another festival. Thus, the festival is uniquely motivated by a number of films that strengthen and distinguish it instead of going to competing festivals. The Carthage Film Festival, which specializes in Arab and African cinema, is one of these competing festivals.

On this basis, the Carthage Film Festival does not pay. He has not paid for a movie show in his life since its inception in 1966 until this thirty-second cycle, which ends on November 6, 2021.

It was founded by the late critic, Al-Taher Al-Sharia, to be held once every two years. In 2015 it was decided that the festival would be held annually. With this, Areen entered a natural competition with other Arab festivals that are held annually, including the Cairo Festival and the Dubai and Abu Dhabi festivals, which stopped following unprecedented success on the map of Arab festivals.

Producer Najib Ayyad took over its management in 2018, after the festival moved from hand to hand for the past two decades, but he passed away the following year, and the prestigious Tunisian director and producer Reda Al-Bahi took over this management last year and this year.


Previously, the question was not whether it was possible to combine Arab cinema with black African cinema in one competition. In the cycles of the eighties and nineties, this question was raised about the same identity on the grounds that the two cinemas are different in everything except for their use of raw film (the digital did not exist at that time). Arab cinema seemed more prolific, more present and advanced, in terms of work methods, workmanship and production, as well as talents in writing, directing and acting than its African counterpart.

However, this situation has changed over the past few years, not only in terms of the combination of African and Arab becoming a successful tradition, but also in the sense that African cinema has its own talents and important productions that have not really been devoid of talent for many years, even if they are scattered and far apart.

This year’s competition contains, of course, this interesting parallel, albeit disproportionately. In the face of eight Arab films (considering that Somalia is a member of the Arab League) there are four African films in the feature film competition, and in comparison to ten Arab films in the short film competition there are two films from the African region (from Rwanda and Senegal).

In the long documentary competition 8 Arab and 4 African films. As for the short documentary film competition, it brings together 6 Arab and 3 African films. These four official competitions are added to a fifth competition entitled “Promising Cinema”, also represented in the predominance of Arab cinema (8 films against two films from the depth of the continent).

The jury for feature films and short films is led by the Italian academic Enzo Borselli and includes a film by Moroccan director Daoud Awlad El-Sayed, Tunisian critic Sofiane Ben Farhan and colleague Tarek El-Shennawy from Egypt.

Emirati director Nujoom Al-Ghanim participates in the jury of short films, chaired by the French Sophie Salbo.

The festival president’s notebook is full of accurate notes, thoughts and details, but like him, there is no secret to him. Reda Al-Bahi is keen to leave the new session the task of talking about itself, and it promises that it will be another successful session, despite the recent political circumstances, even if these conditions are usual in a country that witnessed the interactions of political forces within and around it.

In an exclusive interview, Reda El-Bahi said: “We sought to be represented in the new session by most of the Arab film-producing countries. We have for example films from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Personally, I was surprised by the number of those who submitted their films to us before the session was held.”

Al-Bahi translates the issue numerically:

* Number of participating countries: 45 countries.

* Number of festival sections: 11

* Number of films shown at the festival: 750 films

* The number of selected films is 255 films.

* Number of Tunisian feature films: 18 films.

opening movie

The opening will go to the Chadian-French film “Lingui – Sacred Links” by Chadian director Mohamed Saleh Haroun. As usual in the previous films “The Man Who Shouts” (2010) and “Darat” (2013), the director deals with a thorny tale in his calm style that does not seek to provoke the viewer through dramatic rhythm or activation that may respond to reasons outside his convictions.

In the focus are two figures, a mother named Amina (Ashwaq Abaker) and her young daughter, Maria (Rehan Khalil Alio). The first is surprised by the behavior of her young daughter, whose natures are different from the usual. She slips away and turns into nightmares at night. She secretly follows her daughter to school only to discover that she has been expelled for her pregnancy. This discovery has a huge impact on the religiously observant mother. For now, she divided the emotion and the matter between her religious commitment (she used to go to the mosque and listen to the advice of the imam who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood) and her commitment to the situation of her daughter, who told her mother that she wanted an abortion.

What makes the issue deep emotionally, and the story is that the mother went through this journey previously, as she had given birth while she was single before, and faced expected reactions and her family’s rejection of her. When she finds that the circle is taking her back to her past, she makes the decision to help her daughter have an abortion despite strict laws. So she chooses whatever commitment she wants to herself and her daughter.

The mother is the focus of everything we see. It is more than the presence of the mother in the movie “You Will Die at Twenty” by Amjad Abu Al-Ela, for example. At first, we see it working to extract wires from inside car tires and sell tires as fuel. It is not a profession that any woman desires for herself (not to mention a man) but it is a comprehensive introduction in order to know what kind of a striving woman she is. Later, Amina does not fight in silence, but rather in public, and seeks to change the fate of her daughter. Harun’s quiet execution is paralleled in part by his unwillingness to rhetoric nor to present what is confrontational, but rather to search from within the social establishment for traditions and challenges. The sacred bonds here are female: the mother, her daughter, and then her younger sister and acquaintance. This trio constitutes the quest to find a solution to the acute problem of abortion. The director naturally adopts freedom of action. But one of the director’s most important desires is to point out how women can form a binding attitude and save the situation with a unique solidarity. This was the case with his previous film, Grigris, where the women of the village come together to defend their rights.

Arab films in the competition

As “Lingwe – Sacred Links” leads the films that follow, we find in the feature film competition a multi-directional group and methods, some of which also revolve around women, their status and rights.

The woman is in Omar Al-Zuhairi’s movie “feathers” through the wife whose husband turns into a chicken (although the husband thus reflects the state of the identity stripped from him). The man who raised her is not her father. The consequences of this are shocking, with a question that crystallizes, as we will see in another message, who might be Amiras real father, and what does all this have to do with her mother and father, who is in an Israeli prison.

Both “Rishes” and “Amira” competed for the award at the El Gouna Festival in its fifth session recently (where “feathers” came out with the award for the best Arab film) and are now competing in Carthage.

So did the Moroccan film “Ali Your Voice” by Nabil Ayouch, which also revolves around the young girl and her choices today. As usual in Ayush’s films, the announcement of the rhetorical purpose is preceded by everything else, so the film tends to promote the idea and mainly entertain. Something completely opposite to the movie Mohamed Salih Haroun.

The other films coming from Arab countries to participate in this competition are “Dream” by Omar Belkacemi (Algeria), “The Wind Alone” by Karim Kassem (Lebanon), and three Tunisian films are “Fartato Dahab” (as the actual title) by Abdelhamid Bouchnak and “Majnoun Farah” » by Laila Abu Zaid and «disobedience» by Jilali Al-Saadi.

On a different level, one wonders how some Lebanese and Libyan directors resist the current situation in both countries to produce and provide modern films. There are two other Lebanese films in the Carthaginian screenings, namely “Costa Brava” by Monia Akl and “Anger” by Maria Ivanova, except for what the present may capture from films scattered between the long documentary (“The Wildest Love” by Eliane Raheb) and short films of both fiction and non-fiction.

As for the Libyan films included in the section that hosts it, they are fifteen films, the oldest of which (a film titled “80”) dates back to 2012. Three of them produced this year are “Night Visions” by Bakr Fares and Mahmoud Al-Fathali, “Al-Baroni” by Osama Rizk and “The Colonel’s Dogs.” The Misguided One by Khaled Shmeis.

The remaining eleven films date back to the years after 2012 and 2021 and include “The Land of Men” by Alou Khreis Khalifa (2015), “The Prisoner and the Jailer” by Muhannad Al-Amin (2019), and “The Way Back” by Malek Al Maghribi (2020).

When and how were these films made? This is one of the incentives that make the Carthage Film Festival an unfading artistic and cultural festival.


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