25/04/2013

Nouri Bouzid’s Hidden Beauties: a call to life

The Tunisian director’s latest film has been out in Tunisian cinemas for five weeks

Industry, Tunisia

Nouri Bouzid’s Hidden Beauties: a call to life

For many reasons, Hidden Beauties occupies a crucial place in Tunisian cinema, reports Hamza Marzoul in the Économiste maghrébin.

First, 68-year-old Nouri Bouzid is at the top of his career, meaning that his audience expects even more from him. Second, the film, for which Euromed Audiovisual made a making-of in March 2012, tackles the issue of wearing or not wearing the veil under a new angle by placing it in a post-revolutionary context, after its ban under Ben Ali’s dictatorship.

Hidden Beauties, Bouzid’s long-awaited latest opus, especially after the cancellation of its premiere at the Carthage Film Days, already hints at its intention with its title [in Arabic, Manmoutech], which means "I will not die": a call to life, resistance, and emancipation. Manmoutech is also the title of one the director’s poems that he wrote in prison during the 1970s, when he was a member of Perspectives, a left-wing movement that was forbidden under Bourguiba [Tunisian president from 1957 to 1987].

The film's timing is particularly relevant given current socio-political turmoil in Tunisia, with all previously-acquired advantages, especially those of women, are now threatened.

Bouzid was unable to remain silent in this political landscape, and this film is thus the artistic expression of his fight against obscurantist projects since 1986, when he released his first feature film, Man of Ashes, a true crusade against Tunisian society's taboos.

In Hidden Beauties, Bouzid throws his characters Aicha and Zeineb into the context of the January 14 Kasbah sit-in. But let’s not fool ourselves: This film is not about the revolution.

Rather, it's about the veil. The issue is addressed through the stories of Aicha, who struggles to restore her virtue after having been abandoned by her lover, and Zeineb, whose family wants to wrap her up in a veil to please her fiancé, a young man whose appearance is far from commendable.

Bouzid does not often act in his own films, but here he plays the role of an elderly, ambulant blind accordionist. His character punctuates the film and sometimes anticipates its tragic ending. This bizarre and intriguing character pushes the audience to wonder: Is death the end of wisdom? Is it the end of euphoria? The idea is repeated when Zeineb finds his broken accordion.

The film oozes revolution, yet Bouzid does not convey a triumphant image. Rather, it is one of disillusionment: Zeineb's brother attacks her, a fundamentalist is released from prison thanks to the revolution, and Salafis fight against "personal freedoms". Nevertheless, as it reunites the two youth, one dancing scene suggests a ray of hope.

 

Source: L'Économiste maghrébin

Photo: Hidden Beauties – Facebook Page

 

Hidden Beauties – Trailer

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