Magazine article Screen International

French Producers Head to Tunisia for First Ever Co-Production Forum

Magazine article Screen International

French Producers Head to Tunisia for First Ever Co-Production Forum

Article excerpt

Ten months after Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power, a delegation of French producers headed to the country last weekend to forge new links with its fledgling, post-dictatorship film industry.

Revolutionary exploits, female sexuality in Tunisian society and the misadventures of young people desperate to make it across the Mediterranean Sea to European shores were among the subjects on the table at the first ever Franco-Tunisian co-production forum last weekend.

Some 20 French producers flew into the Tunisian capital of Tunis for the event organized by France's National Cinema Centre (CNC), promotional body Unifrance and Tunisia's fledgling producers union, the CSNPF.

"The forum came out of a meeting between Tunisian producers with the CNC at Cannes which led to a series of joint actions aimed at rebuilding our film industry," commented coordinator Habib Attia of Cinetelefilms.

At present, Tunisia makes one or two low-budget local features a year. Its producers would like to increase that to ten productions annually. A French protectorate from 1881 to 1956, the country has retained strong cultural and linguistic ties with France, making it a natural first port of call for the country's fragile cinema industry.

Attia produced Mourad Ben Cheikh's documentary capturing the days surrounding the toppling of Ben Ali No More Fear, which screened in Official Selection at Cannes this year and is due to hit cinemas in France today (Oct 5), where it is being distributed by KMBO.

Running Sept 30 to Oct 2, the co-production forum coincided with the first day of campaigning for upcoming elections on Oct 23 for an assembly that will write Tunisia's new constitution. Formerly banned Islamist party Ennahda is expected to take up to 30 percent of the vote.

Ennahda supporters were out in force in the centre of Tunis over the weekend, canvassing for votes not far from the once notorious Interior Ministry which remains surrounded by barbed wire, tanks and soldiers.

The revolution and on-going struggle to establish a new democracy following the departure of Ben Ali were high on the list of subjects tackled by the 30 projects presented to the delegation of potential French co-producers

Lofti Achour's well-received, two-part project Burn (Brûle) and Fourteenth (Quartorze) revolved around a political intrigue involving a French multinational in the weeks leading up to the revolution followed by a 24-hour drama set between Jan 14 and 15.

Mhedi Hmili's said his feature project Hourya, about an amnesiac searching for his identity among the inhabitants of a post-epidemic, burnt-out city under military rule, grew out of his time in exile. …

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