30/09/2014

7 ½: a documentary confronts Tunisians with their recent past

With his documentary, Néjib Belakhdi's sought to perform "act of citizenship"

Tunisia

7 ½: a documentary confronts Tunisians with their recent past

Director Néjib Belakhdi has chosen to confront Tunisian cinema-goers with their recent past in his new socio-political documentary 7 ½, reports Tekiano.

With a hand-held camera, Belkadhi interviews passers-by, politicians and experts. By collecting their accounts, he has succeeded in giving a more permanent form to fleeting moments and personal anecdotes -- raw material for a future archive.

"7 ½ is a documentary that I consider first and foremost to be an act of citizenship," Belkadhi explains. "I began filming fully aware of what was at stake around January 2011, but without knowing what I would do with the material I was collecting. I did not know whether it would result in a simple historical record or whether the footage would form the basis of a film. I was under a lot of pressure to film history as it happened."

The result is a gripping record of the year's events. The film is open-ended, but all [Tunisians] who still feeling the consequences of the revolution can fill in the gaps.

The decision to release the film days before the presidential and legislative elections is significant. Tunisia is once again preparing for elections, an experience that was new to most Tunisians in 2011 and a milestone at the time.

The documentary was filmed between January and November 2011 and can be split into three parts. The first serves as an introduction as to how the elections took place. It examines the general post-revolutionary context, from the euphoria of Tunisian citizens to events like the sit-in at the Casbah and their popular demands that led to free elections.

The film's pace picks up in the next scenes. Belhadhi compiles the accounts from both politicians and citizens, juxtaposing them with the words of a sociologist who analyses their behaviour and attitudes.

In the third part of the documentary, Belhadhi follows several political parties on the campaign trail as they encourage people to vote. He visits the Independent High Authority for the Elections (ISIE) and then records the work of the electoral office as it polls voters' initial reactions to the election -- most of whom were voting for the first time in their lives.

7 ½ will provide a way of comparing the events of 2011 and 2014. Tunisian citizens' attitudes have evolved over the three years, as has their enthusiasm.

The documentary can be considered to be a commemorative film that preserves traces of the past. And it may well serve to remind its viewers of what was -- and remains -- at stake.

 

Source: Tekiano

Translation: Simon Pickstone

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