In 2006, the Tunisian director worked on a screenplay for a social comedy to denounce corruption and religious fundamentalism. But the minister of culture banned it from being filmed, because, he said, the film did not correspond to the reality of the country.
Six years later, the script for Affreux, Cupides et Stupides (lit. “Hideous, greedy and stupid”) “has not aged one bit” according to Ibrahim Letayef. In his office, he makes the final editing touches on his second feature film.
“It corresponds to what we are living at the moment: always more corruption, more fundamentalism, more insecurity,” he says.
The director mainly targets Salafi Muslims, whom he calls “hypocrites” and whose true colours he says he wants to reveal. In the film, a fake producer organises a fake Tunisia’s Got Talent just to steal money from its young participants. The film’s protagonists are greedy Salafis and corrupt policemen set to the backdrop of a police story.
This satirical film could stir up a lot trouble for its author Letayef, but the director hopes that fundamentalists will view it with humour. Even though he does expect reprisals after the film’s release, he refuses to worry.
Besides, making Affreux, Cupides et Stupides has been a colourful affair from the beginning. One day when they were filming in La Goulette, north of Tunis, three of the actors playing Salafis decided to go and have a beer in costume. Those who saw them reacted immediately at the sight of bearded men drinking alcohol.
“Two hundred people came to see,” says the director. “Someone posted a photo on Facebook and there were 12,000 views after only one day. Salafi Muslims accused us of manipulation. I had to make an official statement denying it all, and this is how I spoke publicly about my film for the first time.”
Ibrahim Letayef may expect to stir up more controversy, but he does not see himself changing anything because of it.
“We are all stupid to have failed our revolution,” he says, looking defeated. “Maybe the future will be better, but in the meantime mentalities will be hard to change.”
With Affreux, Cupides et Stupides the director is not playing prophet, but he does hope to reignite debate in a society that has once again become silent.
Euromed Audiovisuel dropped in on the director and his crew while they were filming.