Mohamed Zran, Tunisian filmmaker

“Culture, like education, is a bank”


Mohamed Zran, Tunisian filmmaker

Born in 1959, author of six films including Vivre ici (2009), working on the post-production of the film Digage, digage !

Did you film the revolution in Tunisia?

Yes, it was an unexpected event and I went down with my hand-held camera to film this revolutionary scene which invented itself. I am currently editing these images for the film Digage, in which I focus on these strangers, these suspended characters, who live in the South, there where there are no investments, and who are at the origin of the revolts… But I had already filmed the desperation of the marginalised, of those cast out from the systems of Bourguiba and Ben Ali, talked about the tragedy of the rural exodus. In Essaida, which I shot in 1996, the young rebel is called Nidal, which means fighter. I have always looked to these subjects, while others were filming the rich Tunisia, the hammams, the chic suburbs…

How does one film the revolution ? What viewpoint, which distance, what kind of writing ?

How to capture the revolution? I had something to go on with the work I had done before, I try to make these unknown people known, to give them their dignity. I went back to the place where the revolt originated, in Sidi Bou Saïd, to listen to them, to listen to young people. Nobody can stop a people who moves one day. In my film I want to pay tribute to these people and give them back their nobility.

What do you expect from the new institutions in terms of freedom of expression, promoting your work, and what action do filmmakers plan to take?

We have to be careful now, after this extraordinary step, we have to move with the change and express ourselves with conviction. But for a filmmaker the constituent electoral process is very interesting, because we are still in a state of resistance. We will develop ideas, this will make us strong. In our films we have to keep breaking taboos, to lead confrontations, notably on religious themes. Culture has to be present in the constitution, it must be protected. I expect more resources for the Ministry of Culture : culture, like education, is a bank, an investor, which allows for the development of the country in the same way as other infrastructures. I am part of a group of people which organises general assemblies to defend these ideas, to make them succeed.

What are you expecting from European film institutions and professionals today?

To apply for funding or to set up a North-South production you have to produce an incredible number of documents, it’s too bureaucratic. This system is heavy, too institutionalised. Too centralised. The different donors should install a local antenna for North Africa in order to support us in our projects, we need these structures to come closer to us. We also need training, direct funding for production and film theatres. The Mediterranean doesn’t really benefit from the European system.

(Antonia Naim)

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