Manarat festival takes movies to the beach

The festival included screenings in movie theatres and on nine beaches throughout the country.
Saturday 13/07/2019
The screening of Yousry Nasrallah’s “Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces.” (Manarat)
Free cinema for all. The screening of Yousry Nasrallah’s “Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces.” (Manarat)

TUNIS - The Mediterranean cinema festival Manarat showcased films outside their traditional venues, inviting audiences to spend summer nights watching movies on Tunisia’s beaches.

The unique festival, which ran July 1-7, screened films from across the region to bridge African and European culture. It was organised under the guidance of the Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs with the cooperation of the National Centre for Cinema and Image and the French Institute of Tunisia.

Festival Director Dora Bouchoucha said the event’s name — Manarat — represents “the paths we create in life.”

“It is what we need to support our belonging to the Mediterranean. It is a festival to bring the two sides of the Mediterranean together. By screening films on beaches, we chose to bring cinema to people,” she said

The festival included screenings in movie theatres and on nine beaches throughout the country. Its motto — “We love life. We go to the movies” — sought to emphasise that art is a core component of life.

Bouchoucha said “the audience fell in love with the festival,” which included free screenings on beaches that were attended by some of the actors.

“We believe it is important to make accessibility to movies easier,” she said, adding that her vision is to see more of the country engaged with diverse cinema.

“The goal is to go to the audience, not wait for them,” Bouchoucha said. “The films are at once interesting, deep and entertaining. Today’s audience is past finding itself on the screen but the audience wants to forget its difficult routine and daily lives thanks to films that are entertaining, which is why we chose films with a cause but also entertaining.”

She added: “Tunisian cinema has thrived in recent years, managing to fill movie theatres and help open new film theatres. That is why (there are) more Tunisian films than last year in this edition.”

There were 54 fiction films and 13 documentaries from 19 countries screened during the festival. One section was dedicated to works focused on social issues.

“We (introduced) socially engaged films, which we call positive film, with five fiction and five documentaries,” Bouchoucha said. “It is a cinema of intervention, of social critique and denouncing issues but through cinema. It opens our eyes and even if it doesn’t trigger a concrete reaction, it encourages our critical spirit and consciousness. It is through art that we manage to preserve that vein that keeps and make us human.”

Bouchoucha noted that it was an opportunity to showcase high-quality arthouse cinema, which is often neglected for larger-budget films.

Guests included Egyptian actresses Elham Shahin and Nelly Karim, who presented their films and talked about their experience in the industry. Director Yousry Nasrallah and Egyptian actor Mahmoud Hemida presented master classes.

One of the festival’s goals was to help Mediterranean and Arab film-makers more effectively distribute their work.

“Last year, during the first edition of the festival, we founded the first Arab film institute commission to promote the distribution of films with the participation of seven Arab films: (from) Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Morocco,” said Chiraz Latiri, director of Tunisia’s National Centre for Image and Cinema.

“This edition, I am happy to announce the foundation of the Arab film platform to produce seven projects of Arab film-makers in association with the other cinema centres and residencies to promote the development of Arab cinema.”

Nasrallah, whose film “Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces” was screened on a beach in La Marsa, a northern suburb of Tunis, praised the festival bringing free cinema to a wide audience.

“I wanted to tell simple stories like eating, living,” said Nasrallah. “I always say it is my most political film while it doesn’t have any politics in it.”

Spanish film “Petra” by Jaime Rosales was selected best film, while the best performance award went to Greek actor Yannis Drakopoulos for his role in “Pity.” Lebanese Cyril Aris’s documentary “The Swing” was chosen best documentary film.