More than 500 films from 56 different countries will be shown at theaters in Tunis and other cities from November 21 to November 28, as part of a festival that has been dedicated to promoting cinema from the region since the mid-1960s. You can already preview the films in French on the festival website, and a complete English program is coming soon to Tunisia Live.
Brahim Letaief, director of the 2015 festival, has summed up this year’s guiding principles as “discuss, dream, and progress” and said he expects over 150,000 spectators to attend screenings in more than 13 cities throughout Tunisia.
Members of the public “are the true investors in the JCC, and I’d like to thank them.” Letaief said Tuesday at a press conference at the Whatever Saloon in downtown Tunis. “Although we will provide 300 festival passes [to critics, filmmakers, musicians and other VIPs], the festival is open to public. It is for them.”
There is even a series of screenings scheduled at a prison, with director-discussions to follow.
This year’s JCC will pay homage to iconic filmmakers and artists including the Portuguese director Manoel De Oliveira and the Sfax-born auteur Nouri Bouzid. Official Selection films, mostly from Arab and African nations, will compete for 120,000 dinars in prizes. These include nine works by Tunisian directors.
Opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted, respectively, by local artist Mourad Zaghdoudi and the celebrated Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef.
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Promoting Young Filmmakers For Nearly 50 Years
At Tuesday’s press conference Letaief emphasized that this year’s festival represents a return to the original values of the JCC. The festival dates back to 1966 when film critic Taher Cheriaa sought to create an event that would promote young and ambitious filmmakers from Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world and Africa.
Letaief and other organizers said 2015 will commemorate the founding principles of the festival by awarding a new debut film prize in Cheriaa’s name and by adding the Official Competition category of Debut Director. The early festivals consisted almost entirely of first works from new directors who would become leading lights in Arab and African cinema movements, according to the JCC website.
Although the festival is a celebration of filmmakers and their work, organizers highlighted a decline in cinema-going culture in Tunisia.
“In 1966, we had 85 movie theaters. But today there are far fewer,” Letaief said. “Although we are here to celebrate cinema, I have to acknowledge this general problem.”
The festival divides up new films into five Official Competition categories—Feature Films, Documentaries, Debut Directors, Shorts and Carthage Ciné Promesse, for student filmmakers from around the world. Additional non-competition categories will include vintage selections from Tunisia, Argentina, Germany, Italy, and Burkina Faso. Themes range from young love and mischief making to human trafficking and exile.
One of the more controversial offerings in the Official Competition Feature category is Much Loved from the Moroccan auteur Nabil Ayouch. The film follows the lives of four prostitutes in Marrakech and was banned in the director’s home country under the charge that it encourages promiscuity and immorality. The 2015 JCC will be its first airing in an Arab and African country.
The Official Competition Feature category is made up of 17 films in total. Other notable entries include Letter to the King, an Iraqi film by Hisham Zaman about refugees spending a day in Oslo, and the South African Necktie Youth by Sibs Sbongwe, which charts the racial and sexual topographies of a chic suburb of Johannesburg.
The Debut Director category features 20 first works including À peine j’ouvre les yeux from Leyla Bouzid about a young Tunisian medical student named Farah who sings in a rock band and discovers love on the eve of her country’s revolution. There’s also Sugar Cane Shadows by David Constantin of Mauritius, which examines the lives of former sugar-mill workers in throes of globalization.
There are 17 documentaries in Official Competition. Of note is Hassen Ferhani’s Fi Rassi Rond Point, which takes viewers inside the biggest slaughterhouse in Algiers.
The Official Competition also features 13 shorts from Tunisian, Moroccan and Ghanaian directors, among others. The student filmmaker category, Carthage Ciné Promesse, includes 15 works from Spain, Germany, Iraq and beyond.
As the JCC approaches a complete program, reviews, director interviews and more will be available on Tunisia Live.
By Zeineb Marzouk | source TunisiaLive