Magharebia (Washington DC)

11 June 2014

North Africa: Film Festival Strengthens Maghreb Ties

Algiers — The 2nd Maghreb Cultural Film Festival wrapped up Wednesday (June 11th) in Algiers. The event offered an opportunity to strengthen ties between the peoples of the region, organisers said.

During her inaugural speech last week, Algerian Culture Minister Nadia Labidi Cherabi, who is herself a film-maker, stressed the ties of brotherhood between Maghreb nations.

"We have the same dreams, the same ideas and the same rituals as the other countries of the Maghreb," she said.

"We must make the Maghreb a hotbed of film production and increase collaboration, especially with young film-makers," she added, calling for the geographical Maghreb to be turned into a "Maghreb of film".

Festival curator Abdelkrim Ait Oumeziane agreed, noting the film event's role as a platform for sharing and know-how.

No fewer than 38 films, including feature-length movies, short films and documentaries, battled it out for the top prize at the festival, the Golden Cheetah.

The subjects addressed by the Maghreb film-makers had one thing in common: most entries addressed social issues specific to the region.

Algerian director Amor Hakkar addressed the weight of tradition in "La Preuve" (The Proof) through the pain and shame felt by his character, who is unable to have children.

"Bastardo" by Nejib Belkadhi from Tunisia tells the story of Mohcen, who was born to unknown parents and nicknamed bastardo (bastard in Italian).

"Formatage" (Formatting) by Moroccan director Mourad El-Khaoudi tells the story of Rihana (Fatima Zahra Bennacer), who goes to a deserted place where there is a zaouia and practices "el-kheloua" (isolation) in order to get her husband back.

In some cases, the main characters were based on real-life people, such as "Le chalat de Tunis" (The Whipper of Tunis) by Kaouther Ben Hania from Tunisia, who unearths an urban legend dating back to 2003 about a violent character who whips women in public places.

"The End" by Mauritanian director Mai Mostafa looks at the way people addicted to social networks can lose their sense of reality.

Some of the films had a political slant, such as "Révolution Zendj" (Zendj Revolution) by Tariq Teguia and "Une journée ordinaire" (An Ordinary Day) by Bahia Allouache. Hers movie was about an election day marked by a complete lack of public interest.

Libya was represented for the first time in the competition by two short films: "Mémoires du passé" (Memories of the Past) by Faradj Maarouf and "I see you" by Moataz Ben Hmeid.

The Algerian organisers said they were happy to see this neighbouring country take part in the festival.

Another highlight of the festival was the significant presence of female movie directors.

Nabil Hadji, the festival's artistic director, noted: "There is a generation of young female film-makers in the Maghreb who are interested in all film genres, such as documentaries and short films. This is encouraging."

Festival visitors were also enthusiastic about the event.

"It's a real pleasure to find out how Maghreb film-makers view their societies," attendee Basma Hamouni told Magharebia.

"You realise that we have the same problems, and that brings us closer together," the young woman added.

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