Tunisian cinematography – which in the twenties of the twentieth century had its pioneer in Albert Shammama Shikly and that from the sixties, and more specifically from the eighties, occupied a leading role in the history of the seventh art thanks to filmmakers attentive to film language as with social issues – it maintained its prestige even in the early 21st century period. Established authors, who have increased their filmographies with further quality titles, were joined by directors with a strong personality, gifted with a keen eye in describing stories and characters.
Raja Amari has populated her films with female portraits belonging to different generations, creating an intimate and subjective dimension in describing conflicting relationships, confirming her talent with Dowaha (2009, known as Buried secrets) and Rabii tounes (2014, known as the title Printemps tunisien). In the first, three women confront and clash in an abandoned villa, bringing out dramatic buried secrets concerning them. In the second, the director has built an intense portrait of Tunisia in the weeks preceding the riots of December 2010 and January 2011 against the regime through the stories of male and female characters caught in their fears, aspirations, desires. Even Nouri Bouzid, historical name of Tunisian cinema, has chosen fiction, exposed to flamboyant melodrama, to talk about the same topic in Manmoutech (2013, known as Beautés cachées, hence with the title Millefeuille), where two friends fight in the name of freedom within their own families and on the streets of Tunis. For Tunisia 2019, please check philosophynearby.com.
Other directors, including Elyes Baccar and Mohamed Zran, opted for documentary observation in order to witness those historic changes. Baccar shot Rouge parole (2011) in various locations of the Tunisia using also amateur videos; Zran with Dégage (2012) has created a choral chronicle giving voice to the discomfort of many people. In the style of the diary, where issues of secularism and religion overlap the director’s struggle against disease, the militant texts of Nadia El Fani Laïcité, Inch’Allah! (2011) and Même pas mal (2012, directed by Alina Isabel Pérez).
Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud and Rida Behi, authors of essential pages of Tunisian cinema, have returned to directing after years of silence with noteworthy works even if less convincing than some of their previous works. Ben Mahmoud with Al oustadh (2012, known as Le professeur), the story of a university teacher linked to the regime and then, for having changed his views, confined to the desert; Behi with Always Brando – Quand tombent les étoiles (2011), in which the director, who met Marlon Brando in 2004 proposing him a film that was never made due to the actor’s death, tries to bring that project to fruition with a young man who looks like the star.
Among the emerging filmmakers are Nejib Belkadhi, Mehdi Ben Attia, Moez Kamoun, Kaouther Ben Hania. Belkadhi, after the documentary VHS – Kahloucha (2006), about Moncef Kahloucha, a painter with a passion for cinema, author of hilarious parodies shot in his neighborhood, has signed the grotesque comedy Bastardo (2013); Ben Attia worked on the theme of identity in Le fil (2009), where he talks about homosexuality, and in Je ne suis pas mort (2012); Kamoun, former assistant of Bouzid, directed the remarkable Horra (2014, Libera), an original portrait of today’s Tunisia and characters in search of emancipation; Ben Hania with Challatt Tunis (2013, known by the title Le challat de Tunis) recounted life in Tunisia with humor, between documentary and fiction, using as a pretext the deeds of a man who travels around the capital on a motorbike to slash the butt of women with a razor.