No Tunisian film made it to the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection this year, but when Histoires Tunisiennes (lit. “Tunisian stories”), a debut feature by Nada Mezni Hafaiedh, was screened on May 23 at its Film Market, it attracted a large audience.
Histoires Tunisiennes tells the intertwined stories of several characters all living in the same city, Tunis. It follows a group of free-spirited, independent upper-class girlfriends looking for love, a man returning to Tunis after a personal drama, a taxi driver who loses his job, and a corrupt bar owner.
Shot in Tunis shortly before the Arab Spring, Histoires Tunisiennes describes the life of Tunisians on the eve of the revolution, according to its director who spoke after the screening. It is inspired by real life stories, such as those in Hafaiedh’s previous documentary Singularity, and tackles taboo topics openly, including that of sex before marriage.
Through a mise-en-abyme of the dichotomy between the lives and preoccupations of rich and poor in Tunisia, Hafaiedh conveys the complexity of Tunisian identity and society. Yet her characters, no matter what their social background, also share common traits: sadness and frustration, but also hope, which prevails in the end.
Hafaiedh entirely funded the film herself. It has already been screened to the Tunisian media and received good reviews, but the director hopes that the market screening in Cannes will help it to gain international recognition.
Numerous potential investors and film industry professionals attended the market screening, beside the film’s director, its producer Slim Hafaiedh, actor Nejib Bel Hassan, and actress Leila Rokbani, as well as producer and renowned Tunisian businessman Tarak Ben Ammar, whose group Quinta was in charge of the film’s post-production.
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