The Carthage Film Festival witnessed a dynamic parade of Arab and African film directors, including such names as Jamil Rateb, Khaled El Nabawy, Ezzat El Alayeli, Nahed El Ashley, Yosra El Lozy, Mohammed Malas, Ola Balogun, Michel Khlefi, Timité Bassori, Kaled Sadik, Djingarey Maiga and Adel Imam.

Held under tight security, owing to fear of possible attacks by terrorists or extremists, and enabled a creative brainstorm on the issue of preserving the Arab/African film heritage, a topic that has been the subject of several international conferences and symposia.

A diverse selection of films tackled various subjects, ranging from the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Palestinian issue, identity, war and peace as critics debated the overall quality of the 27th edition – which most film lovers saw as a huge success.  

“I was impressed with the involvement of young filmmakers, actors and actresses from various parts of Africa and the Arab world – nevertheless Tunisia does not fully appreciate the fact that it holds the key to African integration through culture,” said Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a Malian film maker.

“With war and violence a feature in several parts of the world, the power of film brings a ray of light that guides us and leads us towards peace. I am delighted to be part of this wonderful festival and hope its impact will be felt all over the world,” added Mohamed Hédi, a Tunisian academic.

Covering a wide range of topics through film

The symposium raised several issues, including a review of the evolution of thinking about conservation policies and ongoing projects in the field of conservation, safeguarding the heritage provided by film in Europe, North and Sub-Saharan Africa and the role of film archives as a tool of resistance, resilience and therapy.

It equally touched on questions relating to private, public, national and international plans that have already been initiated. It also offered a review of the deficit of institutions that specialise in the preservation of film heritage, as well as of projects that are under way and the obstacles they are encountering.

Award winners

The Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania won the grand prize for her feature-length documentary titled Zaineb Hates the Snow. Shot over a six-year period, the film follows a young Tunisian girl’s difficult passage through adolescence when she moves to Quebec from Tunisia shortly after the death of her father in an accident.

Egyptian film-maker Mohamed Diab’s Clash, which captures Egypt’s divided post-revolutionary society, won four awards: second prize in the feature competition, best cinematography, best editing and the Critics prize.

Palestinian director Mai Masri took the third prize in the feature film competition for 3,000 Nights.

Is there a turning point ahead?

“I can foresee a turning point for the Carthage Film Festival – I think it is becoming increasingly commercial, and this would be regrettable. I think we should maintain the festival as it is and continue to open up to Arab and African filmmakers,” said Fethi Saidi, a Tunisian documentary filmmaker.

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“Organising festivals of this magnitude is complicated – nevertheless, I think we need to improve the technical department so we can avoid problems during screenings to ensure that members of juries are able to see all the films,” added Iddrissa Ouedraogo, a Burkinabe filmmaker.
Undeniably, the Carthage Film Festival remains the most popular for Arab and African filmmakers, actors, actresses and film lovers – and it continues to maintain the enviable record of having the largest number of participants and moviegoers on the African continent.