Role reversal in film imagines Tunisia as safe haven for migrants

Sunday 05/06/2016
A scene from Tunisia 2045

Tunis - As a long line of migrants awaits admittance to Tunisian territory, a European father and his daughter approach a border control officer pleading to be granted entrance to the North African country.
A German-speaking migrant loses his temper and aggressively attacks the officer before being taken away by police.
Then, much to the dismay of the waiting migrants, the border control officer announces that the quota of migrants who could be admitted to the country has been filled. No more immigrants could enter Tunisia.
This surrealistic scene at odds with current reality constitutes the opening scene of a short film Tunisia 2045 in which French di­rector Ted Hardy-Carnac explores an alternative reality where the immigration issue is reversed.
The film imagines a hypothetical situation in which people escape war-torn Europe in search of safety in Tunisia.
“Tunisia 2045 is both a realistic drama and a futuristic film. In December of 2015, 1 million im­migrants arrived in Europe in the year,” Hardy-Carnac said.
“This year, we witnessed a humanitarian disaster that pushed thousands of men and women to leave their country, often at risk of their lives. This year also showed the difficulties faced by Europe in trying to be open and welcoming in front of this drama.”
Tunisia 2045 is the latest of five short films directed by Hardy- Carnac. In most of his work, Carnac dwells on themes of time, memory and the past blending both a realis­tic and fictive approach to reality.
According to Hardy-Carnac, this approach allows artists to put cur­rent issues in new perspective and to question many of the givens.
“In front of the distress of many people during the refugee crisis, there was beautiful evidence of generosity but also the worrying temptation of selfishness. De­spite this second attitude, against pragmatic speeches which want to label human beings, there is em­pathy for refugees,” Hardy-Carnac explained.
“It is in this context that my short film was born, Tunisia 2045. I wanted to highlight that those political contexts and personal situations can be deeply changed and inverted. The world would be a random jungle without mutual aid and solidarity, without gestures of humanity.”
By reversing the places of Eu­ropeans and immigrants, Hardy- Carnac sought to address similari­ties that exist between people of different nationalities despite the geographical borders that separate them.
“What is the difference between us and a migrant? What is the dif­ference between us and a person who lives this desperate situation? The difference is arbitrary. It re­lated to the fact that you were born somewhere and not in another place,” Hardy-Carnac said.
“I wanted to reverse the roles to show that we are all migrants or at least potential migrants.”
On his choice of Tunisia as the hypothetical destination of Euro­pean refugees, Hardy-Carnac said Tunisia seems to be the country most likely to have a bright future in the Middle East and North Africa region. Tunisia is an exception among the “Arab spring” countries as it successfully works on estab­lishing a democracy.
“If there was a disaster in Europe that drove Europeans to migrate, they would naturally go to one of the closest countries where things would be going well. Moreover, Tunisia is not only the birthplace of the ‘Arab spring’. It is also the only country from the ‘Arab spring’ to be in a rather positive situation,” Hardy-Carnac added.
“For me, Tunisia represents the hope of a successful democratic transition. I like to imagine a future in which Tunisia, which is still in a fragile situation today, will have managed to settle a stable democ­racy and will represent hope for European immigrants in distress. It is also the country where my grandmother was born.”
Hardy-Carnac said he consid­ers Tunisia the hope of the region despite the challenges of terrorism the small Arab country faces.
“Despite the threat of terrorism that affected tourism, I’m con­vinced that democratic stability is something possible (even if very difficult), with time, in the MENA region. Tunisia is maybe the coun­try which is the closest to show the way to follow,” Hardy-Carnac said.
Tunisia 2045 won the award for best director at the Nikon Film Festival, garnering both critical ac­claim and audience appreciation at the festival.
“And it was the second most supported movie by the audience, out of 1,056 movies, which shows the breadth of the support that the film received. Of course, conserva­tive segments of the audience were very critical of the film but most of the audience and the critics were very enthusiastic about the possibilities suggested by the film,” he said.
“Tunisia 2045 touched a lot of people and that is the proof of suc­cess for a film whose raison d’être is empathy for others.”