Tunisian film director revisits Romeo and Juliet

Friday 02/10/2015
Photos: Propaganda.tn

Tunis - Tunisian film director Hinde Boujemaa has gar­nered critical acclaim for her short film entitled … And Romeo Married Juliet at a number of film festivals.
It was awarded the best short film prize in the Dubai Interna­tional Film Festival and best short film in the International Arab Film Festival in Oran. Boujemaa’s work was also awarded the jury prize for best short film in Alexandria Medi­terranean Countries International Film Festival.
“The idea of …And Romeo Mar­ried Juliet started with my desire to re-examine the classical ideas of love. We have Romeo and Juliet, Antara and Abla and many other couples. Yet, not a single story of these last. They all die at the end and their love does end in a way,” Boujemaa said. The same pattern continues in the iconic works of lit­erature.
“Through the film, I wanted to question the durability of love as a feeling through the lens of soci­ety. The movie departs from the assumption that Romeo and Juliet got married and remained together for 60 years.”
She added: “I wanted to explore the social ramifications of the ex­pectation that love should last. It is one of the questions that I have al­ways had when looking at our soci­ety. I have always wondered about what keeps a couple together for so long and why does society expect and pressure them to do so. The movie, in a way, takes a satirical outlook at the traditional example of lasting marriage.”
Boujemaa is no stranger to awards as her previous film, the documentary It was Better Tomor­row, won best documentary in Dubai film festival in 2012. Her first film depicted the life of a poor mid­dle-aged woman and her son look­ing to keep a roof over their heads during the revolution. Her second work is a story about love in mod­ern times.
“I wrote the short film before the documentary. I never thought of making documentaries hon­estly. I wanted to work on fiction features but then the revolution happened. It was a coincidence. I was out January 11, 2014, [when riots broke out] with my camera like many other people and I met this woman who changed me and changed many of my conceptions of Tunisian society. I followed her for a year and a half to depict her story. Her story had to be told,” Boujemaa said.
Having been critically acknowl­edged, Boujemaa is concerned about the Tunisian audience’s reaction to her films. A movie is meant to be watched and appreci­ated by everyday people more than screened in festivals and awarded by juries, she said.
“I have never expected awards, to be honest. Making movies was meant to be for people, the audi­ence who comes to watch,” Bou­jemaa said. “For me, my movies needed to be seen. What kind of questions can my movie stir in them? When they leave the movie theatre, I want them to keep won­dering about the subjects of my films and maybe reconsider certain convictions they had. Maybe the film manages to change (their) mis­conceptions.”
“A full movie theatre is more important than awards,” she said. “Awards are given by a committee that evaluates your work technical­ly and thematically in a profession­al way. We mostly have the same set of competences when dealing with the movie as a work of art.
“Yet, when you enter a movie theatre to only find four people, that is sad. A jury gives you cred­ibility as a film director and evalu­ates your competences. The real objective of a movie, however, is the people who watch, not the awards that the director can win. ”
Boujemaa is well aware of certain difficulties that female directors and artists face in their work.
“I am concerned that the issue has become politicised,” she said. “A woman is always creative in our country regardless of her profes­sion, a teacher or a farmer. Wheth­er she works at home or outside, she is creative in the sense she cre­ates something. They were never in need of a day to celebrate that fact.
“The problem is that govern­ments always use women to pro­mote a positive image of the coun­try. I think it is overused at this point. This does not mean we are not creative but we are independ­ent. Tunisian women are inde­pendent in exercising their creativ­ity.”
Boujemaa says women have al­ways held a remarkable presence in the artistic field and she highlights the necessity of a fair representa­tion of women artists and artisans who are equally creative but less represented.
“I would love, for instance, to have a yearly festival celebrating the artwork of women — films, books, paintings,” she said. “Let’s have a women’s film festival for instance. Let’s have TV shows for Tunisian female intellectuals and writers who also lack the exposure in the media. In the field, women are there and present on a great level but we rarely hear of them.”