By Bernt Lindner
The organiser was the Tunisian Federation of Film Societies (FTCC), President: Mr. Mondher Kalai. Originally the festival was planned for April 2001 but financial problems forced the organiser to postpone it for four weeks.
64 short films had been entered to the competition from the following countries: Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq/Sweden, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates. The competition consisted of two sections: Short feature and documentary films from independent film makers and finals from film high schools.
There were an international main jury and the FICC Jury (consisting of Kalthoum Bornaz, Tunisia, Eva Furrer, Swtzerland, Laurent Sester, Switzerland, and Bernt Lindner, Germany). Both juries were in session together but awarded their prizes separately.
The festival was among others opened with a homage to Ingmar Bergman with his early documentary "Karin's Face", an impressing black-and-white montage of pictures of Bergman's mother.
Altogether the festival programme offered a unique chance to get an insight into the very interesting short film production of Arab countries which can rarely be recognised in Europe. There were feature films as well as documentaries and experimental films with a large range of very different cinematographic styles as far as biased propaganda films of Palestinian film makers which were reservedly accepted by the audience. There were no animated films at all.
The technical quality of the screenings was satisfactory. But some of the Arab films in original versions were neither subtitled nor translated simultaneously which proved to be detrimental to the foreign guests. The reason for that may have been the tense financial situation of the festival. Nevertheless the amiable hospitality of the organisers was exemplary. Stay and full board costs were paid by the festival but no travel expenses.
The international main jury awarded three main prizes and numerous special mentions. The top hit ("Golden Bonsai") was the remarkable documentary film "Sacha" (26 min, 35 mm, B/W, 1999) by Walid Mokdadi who fled from Irak and now lives in Sweden. It describes the fate of the Russian boy Sacha who fell ill with diabetes at the age of five, went blind at 18 and died at 24. The jury was deeply impressed by the expressive narrative mode.
The FICC Jury awarded their "Don Quijote" prize to the Tunisian short feature film "Khemissa" (13 min, 35 mm, B/W, 2000) by Molka Mahdaoui. A woman of about 35 years of age tries to kill herself with sleeping pills and is disturbed by an old Bedouine woman who tries to distract her. The end of the film remains open. Reasons: "The jury was strongly impressed by the most sparingly used cinematographic means and yet powerful expression. The jury equally appreciates the outstanding performance of the main character".
The FICC Jury also gave two special mentions to the films "Sacha" (see above) and "Ils étaient 1à" (They were there) (Syria, 10 min, BETA, B/W, 2000) by Ammar Abdelkarim Albeik. The film is a nostalgic homage to remembrance in the form of discarded steam engines as symbols of human life.
Altogether the festival may well be considered as a very positive event especially because of its national focal point. It should be kept in mind as an interesting meeting point for young film makers. I also recommend to try to establish a regular FICC Jury there in the future.
Bernt Lindner, Member of the FICC Jury 2001, Augsburg / Germany, 9th June 2001.
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