Kelibia hosts Tunisian amateur film festival
Kelibia - The open-air movie theatre hosting the International Amateur Film Festival of Kelibia (FIFAK) brimmed with cinema fans when the festival opened in early August.
For many young Tunisians, the festival is not just about cinema; it is a cultural ritual that encompasses many forms of art and entertainment. On the opening evening, some teenagers argued about the best place to camp for the night. Another group put the final touches on their performance. Others, the locals of the town, were flocking to the venue along with their families to watch the movies.
Kelibia, 115km east of Tunis, has been the site of the festival since 1964, welcoming thousands of people each year. Organised by the Tunisian Federation of Amateur Film-makers (FTCA), the festival is dedicated to promoting alternative cinema, a politically activist expression of film.
“This year, we tried to work on a different approach, which is to occupy the public space in Kelibia,” said Tarek Sardi, a member of the directing committee and general secretary in charge of production. “We wanted to open the space more than usual. We attempted to create parallel programmes and dedicated parts of the activities to the people, the locals to get their attention and not just for the festival goers.
“For instance, the festival includes street art shows this year which attracted people from all different walks of life. Everyone came to watch the street shows.”
This year’s edition featured about 80 films from 23 countries, with 50 films competing in the international category and 26 films in the national category. The opening night film paid tribute to Syria with Ghatfan Ghanoom’s Moon in the Skype.
The Golden Falcon — the event’s biggest award — was given to Blue, a Syrian-Palestinian entry by Abo Gabi Bidayyat. Second place in the international competition was voted to Solo by Nayara Alsarwy from Egypt and third place was taken by Tunisian independent film-maker, Malek Khmiri for Triton, Hunter of Sound.
Houcem Cherif from Hamamet won the top prize in the national competition for Cat Town. Second place went to Youssef el-Behi’s and Halim Jerbi’s One of Us. They are from Hammam-Lif. The third prize was awarded to Sfax’s Majdi Kaanich for his Auctioned Islands.
Slide, by Malak Abd Ali from Iraq, won the jury award and special mentions were given to Argentinian film Vendeval by Mariana Rojas and the Moroccan film Whispers of Venus by Ghislaine Assif.
“The films selected comply with the federation’s main constituent: We don’t accept mainstream commercial films but we work on the engaged,” Sardi said. “The goal is to promote cinema committed to the issues of the people. It is a festival for committed cinema.
“Our conviction is that the festival is here to guide, to change things, to raise awareness, to be a part of a community that supports you before you support yourself.”
In addition to films and street art, the festival offered a variety of workshops.
“The workshops are open to all. This year, we doubled the number of workshops and invited film-makers from different countries to animate them. They brought the knowledge and aesthetics,” Sardi said.
“This year we also worked on themes as we have workshops on gender, sexual politics, mental and physical border as well as workshops for the shadows theatre.”
The festival is one of the oldest film festivals in Africa. It has a long history of activism and was subject to censorship and state control before the revolution. Today, however, the festival enjoys a large margin of freedom of expression.
While the festival promotes independent cinema that tackles social, political and economic causes, it also provides young film-makers a venue to showcase their work.
Many of them have been attending the festival from an early age. Such is the case of Sahar el-Echi, who has been a member of the workshop for children’s cinema since 2003. She participated in the national competition with her film Mutation, a sarcastic portrait of the stereotypes of activists in Tunisia before and after the revolution.
“The festival is a school of life before being a school of cinema and amateur cinema. In my opinion, the message will be transmitted in a clearer way without complicating the story through audiovisual means. I want to simplify the idea to the person watching, to simplify the complicated aspect,” Echi explained.
“I chose to work on the change of the revolutionary figure of Tunisian activists… I worked on painting the contrast before and after the 14th of January. The film traces the mutation of the character. It is a mutated character that adapted to the changes of social and political and is no longer authentic.”
Every night, hundreds of people attended screenings.
“The turnout has exceeded all of our expectations this year,” Sardi said. “The festival is primordial for Tunisia. It is the nest for Tunisian youth to be guided to reconstruct to see a different reality, to discover things.”
“The festival is still standing despite all as long as the federation is here and as long as cinema clubs are working. This festival is built on a democratic structure that will sustain itself. We are all equal and all of our voices are heard here.”