Tunisia is Guest Country 2021

01. September 2021

Ten years ago, the "Tunisian spring" began: the country's cinema has taken the momentum with it and is flourishing. The "New World View" section at the 17th Zurich Film Festival celebrates a new generation of Tunisian filmmakers. Riding on the wave of the revolution, they tackle pressing issues without fear and tell urgent stories about a society caught between tradition and a spirit of awakening. 


Since 2007, the "New World View" section has been dedicated to highlighting a country in which a cinematic awakening is taking place. The focus this year is on Tunisia, the first country on the African continent to be selected. ZFF Artistic Director Christian Jungen states the importance of finally taking a look at Africa: "In 1950, the population of Africa was half that of Europe; in 2100, it will be ten times more. And cinema is a reflection of society. Ten years after the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, the Tunisian films show us a country in transition."

The selection is curated by ZFF Programme Director Georg Bütler, who has had his eye on Tunisia's "New Wave" for some time. "Young Tunisian filmmaking has been causing a stir for some years now," he says: "It's high time we gave this new generation, which is as innovative as it is intrepid, a major platform in Zurich." Bütler goes on to emphasise the stylistic versatility and innovative power of the films: "Which, in terms of content, make use of the new freedoms found in Tunisian social discourse as much as they contribute to it." Thus, this cinema deals not only with familial and patriarchal structures, but also with mismanagement, emigration and religious fanaticism. Bütler further notes: "Many burning social issues are also tackled, sometimes directly, sometimes hidden in symbolic parables."

"Tunisia has undergone a profound cultural transformation since the revolution in 2011," explains the Tunisian ambassador to Switzerland, Tarek Bettaieb, who is delighted by ZFF’s invitation: "Choosing Tunisia as the first Arab and African country to be the guest of honour at the 17th Zurich Film Festival is a tribute to generations of producers and creative talents who have spared no effort in promoting cinema as an important instrument of culture and a mirror of civilisation, enriching it with many relevant works despite historical limitations, technical handicaps and limited resources."

Bettaieb adds that now a new generation of filmmakers has embraced "enlarging the shape of the cinema to some sensitive issues - far from stereotyped values - and new society phenomena with innovative images and genuine artistic language that shuns instrumentalization and censorship."

The best example of this is Kaouther Ben Hania's satirisches drama "The Man Who Sold His Skin," which recently became the first feature film in Tunisian history to be nominated for an Oscar, and will now be shown at ZFF. In total, the "New World View" section programme includes eleven feature films, two documentaries and a short film block which was once again compiled as part of a long-term collaboration with the International Short Film Festival Winterthur.

Official partner of the section "New World View: Tunisia" is Zurich Airport.

This year's Zurich Film Festival takes place from September 23 to October 3, 2021.

The complete programme of the 17th Zurich Film Festival will be published on Thursday, September 9, from 12 noon on our Website. It can also be viewed on the official festival app Tribo, where a personal festival programme can be compiled as well. Ticket sales start at 12 noon on Monday, September 13.

THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN


THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN

 
Swiss Premiere | Drama | Tunisia, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Turkey, Cyprus, 2020
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Cast: Yahya Mahayni, Dea Liane, Koen de Bouw, Monica Bellucci, Saad Lostan

An artist makes Sam, a Syrian refugee, an unusual offer: the freedom to travel if he gives up his body for art in return. Sam, who wants to see the love of his life again, has a visa tattooed on his back, but must now also be on permanent call as an art object for exhibitions. A provocative look at elitism in the arts and the apathy of the Western world towards the refugee crisis.

 

UN FILS / A SON


A SON
 / UN FILS

Drama | Tunisia, France, 2019
Director: Mehdi M. Barsaoui
Cast: Sami Boujila, Najla Ben Abdallah

While Fares and Meriem are enjoying a vacation weekend with their 11-year-old son Aziz in the south of Tunisia, they unexpectedly get caught up in a shootout and the wounded Aziz ends up in intensive care needing a liver transplant. Both parents get tested, but a long-kept secret comes to light in the process. A gripping drama that skilfully interweaves the private conflicts of its characters with the political conflicts of Tunisia.

 

STREAMS


STREAMS


Drama | Tunisia, France, Luxembourg, 2021
Director: Mehdi Hmili
Cast: Afef Ben Mahmoud, Iheb Bouyahya, Zaza, Sarah Hannachi, Slim Baccar

Amel and her teenage son Moumen dream of his future as a goalkeeper for a famous soccer team. But everything turns out differently. After allegedly committing adultery, Amel has to spend six months in prison. When she is released, Moumen has disappeared. His tracks lead Amel into the Tunisian capital's nocturnal underworld where she encounters the darkest recesses of a society out of control.

 

NOURA RÊVE / NOURA'S DREAM


NOURA RÊVE / NOURA'S DREAM


Swiss Premiere | Drama | Tunisia, Belgium, France, 2019
Director: Hinde Boujemaa
Cast: Hend Sabri, Lotfi Abdelli, Hakim Boumsaoudi, Imen Cherif, Saif Dhrif, Jamel Sassi

While her erratic husband Jamel is once again behind bars, Noura dreams of a future with her lover Lassad. The divorce has already been filed when the jealous Jamal is unexpectedly released – and extramarital affairs are forbidden by law in Tunisia... A beautiful drama about a sympathetic yet stubborn working-class woman who fights for self-determination.

 

TLAMESS


TLAMESS


Mystery | Tunisia, France, 2019
Director: Ala Eddine Slim
Cast: Abdullah Miniawy, Souhir Ben Amara, Khaled Ben Aissa

The young soldier S has had enough of the brutality of the Tunisian army. He deserts, fleeing for the solitude of the forest. There he meets the pregnant F, who has fled her life as the wife of a wealthy businessman and soon feels captivated by the enigmatic loner S. An atmospheric, surreal and dreamlike film and an internationally award-winning cinematic experience.

 

UN DIVAN À TUNIS / ARAB BLUES


ARAB BLUES / UN DIVAN À TUNIS


Comedy | France, 2019
Director: Manele Labidi
Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Majd Mastoura, Aïcha Ben Miled, Feriel Chamari, Hichem Yacoubi

After the Tunisian revolution, psychotherapist Selma returns to Tunis from France to open her own practice. But both her family and the authorities make life difficult for her. Selma decides to receive patients at her apartment, because the people's need to talk is obviously great. The film addresses the deep traumas that Ben Ali's dictatorship has left on the people of Tunisia with witty lightness, thus capturing a country in upheaval.

 

UNE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR ET DE DÉSIR / A TALE OF LOVE AND DESIRE


A TALE OF LOVE AND DESIRE / UNE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR ET DE DÉSIR


Swiss Premiere | Drama | France, 2021
Director: Leyla Bouzid
Cast: Sami Outalbali, Zbeida Belhajamor, Diong-Kéba Tacu, Aurélia Petit, Mahia Zrouki

When Farah and Ahmed meet, there is an immediate spark. A literature course on erotic Arabic poetry in Paris brings the Tunisian and the Algerian-French secondo closer together. But it soon becomes apparent that Farah's free-spiritedness is at odds with Ahmed's conservative ideas. The drama uses sensuous images to explore various "Arab" notions of sexuality, as well as the complex interstices of love and sex.

 

LA BELLE ET LA MEUTE / BEAUTY AND THE DOGS


BEAUTY AND THE DOGS / LA BELLE ET LA MEUTE


Drama | Tunisia, France, Sweden, Lebanon, Norway, 2017
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Cast: Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli, Noomane Hamda, Mohamed Akkari, Chedly Arfoui

Following a party, the young student Mariam is wandering the streets of Tunis, completely distraught – she has been the victim of a crime committed by police officers. She wants to report the perpetrators, but how do you proceed when the police are of no help and everyone else just advises you to keep quiet? Based on true events, the film tells of a courageous woman who stands up to a corrupt all-male system. Truly powerful cinema!

 

LA VOIE NORMALE / RAILWAY MEN


RAILWAY MEN / LA VOIE NORMALE


Doc: Social & Human Interest | Tunisia, Switzerland, France, Katar, 2018
Director: Erige Sehiri
Protagonists: Nabi Houji, Ahmed Mourad Khanfir, Afef Mokbli, Issameddine Fitati

Burned-out carriages, loose rails: the Tunisian state railroad has long been in a desolate state after years of mismanagement. RAILWAY MEN accompanies five train drivers, conductors and engineers in their daily struggle against the outdated infrastructure. An exciting transformation process which - transferable to post-revolutionary Tunisian society - not only tells of incompetence and corruption, but also of dignity, resilience and new hope.

 

DACHRA


DACHRA


Horror | Tunisia, 2018
Director: Abdelhamid Bouchnak
Cast: Yassmine Dimassi, Aziz Jbali, Bilel Slatnia, Hela Ayed, Bahri Rahali, Hedi Majri

Yasmine joins forces with two fellow students to investigate the legend of the witch Mongia for a university project. Their research leads them to an isolated community in the deepest forest. Warmly welcomed by the male inhabitants, but shunned by the women, Yasmine suspects no good will come of this and is soon running for her life. With its cleverly implemented low-budget aesthetic, "Tunisia’s first horror movie" was the biggest Tunisian box office hit in 20 years.

 

SHE HAD A DREAM


SHE HAD A DREAM


Doc: Social Interest & Politics | France, Tunisia, 2020
Director: Raja Amari

25-year-old Gofrahne Binous has a dream: she wants to become a politician and influence the future of her country. The path to this goal is anything but easy for the Tunisian law student, who, as a black woman, has to contend with racist and sexist discrimination. SHE HAD A DREAM is a richly painted portrait of an inspiring personality with immense stamina and of a society full of contradictions.

 

HEDI / INHEBBEK HEDI


HEDI / 
INHEBBEK HEDI

Drama | Tunisia, Belgium, France, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, 2016
Director: Mohamed Ben Attia
Cast: Majd Mastoura, Rym Ben Messaoud, Sabah Bouzouita, Hakim Boumessoudi, Omnia Ben Ghali

The life of car salesman Hedi has always turned out the way others have planned it for him, not least his mother, who has also arranged his marriage. But shortly before his wedding, Hedi's tranquil life is turned completely upside down when he falls in love with the free-spirited dancer Rim during a business trip. A nuanced film about the happiness and pain of freedom – a milestone in new Tunisian cinema.

 

REGARDE-MOI / LOOK AT ME


LOOK AT ME / REGARDE-MOI


Drama | Tunisia, France, Qatar, 2018
Director: Nejib Belkadhi
Cast: Nidhal Saadi, Saoussen Maalej, Aziz Jebali, Idryss Kharroubi, Ann Parry

Tunisian Lotfi, a successful businessman in Marseille, is expecting a child with his girlfriend Sophie. She, however, has no idea that Lotfi left behind his wife Sarrah and his autistic son Youssef in his homeland some years previously. When Sarrah falls into a coma, the 40-year-old returns to Tunisia to face his past – but how will Youssef react after all these years?

 

SHORT FILMS FROM TUNISIA


SHORT FILMS FROM TUNISIA


NOUR: Rim Nakhli, 2020
LE BAIN: Anissa Daoud, 2020
THIS DAY WON’T LAST: Mouaad el Salem, 2020
BROTHERHOOD: Meryam Joobeur, 2018

The diversity of Tunisian filmmaking in a short film block: NOUR shows us a pair of siblings on their way to meet their long-lost father. LE BAIN is also about family: a young man finds himself alone with his son for the first time when he is suddenly confronted with his worst fears. THIS DAY WON’T LAST is a lyrical reflection of the life of a young generation of queer Tunisians. And the Oscar-nominated feature film BROTHERHOOD offers us a fascinating insight into the relationship between the local population and Islamic fundamentalism. (Curated by the international short film festival "Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur".)


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