Mohamed Ben Attia’s Hedi and the Berlinale

Inhebbek Hedi, directed by Tunisian director Mohamed Ben Attia,  with Belgium’s Dardenne brothers as co-producers, is “the first Arab contender in two decades” in the official competition of the Berlinale, running from 11-21 February.

Hedi tells the story of “a simple young man” who “does not expect much from the life that is traced for him. He just takes life as it comes.”

He allows his authoritarian and overwhelming mother organise his marriage to Khedija. He allows his boss send him on a prospection trip to Mahdia during the week of his wedding celebrations, and he allows Ahmed, his brother who has come back from France specially to take part in the ceremony, to dictate how he should behave….

Until, that is “he meets Rim who works as an activity leader in a hotel, a seaside resort that is losing its tourists… while the wedding preparations go on, Hedi is finally forced to make a choice.”

This tale of a personal “wake up call” and need to control his own life is a version of another wake-up call, which the director says

came on January 14, 2011 standing in the crowd outside the interior ministry demanding the removal of longtime dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. It was the end of an era “under censorship that we thought was only political, but in fact was (also) sedating everybody”, he said.

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Nora Medhat, who in a previous article discussed Arab cinema’s Oscar struggles, writes about other Arab artists hoping to make their mark during the Berlinale.

The Arab Cinema Center (ACC) is launching its own magazine during the festival. Last year, the ACC “announced a year-round partnership with Variety as its media partner during 2016” and has joined forces with Variety to jointly present Variety’s Arab Filmmaker of the Year Award at the Berlinale.

In other Arab cinema news, The Vermont Global Roots Film Fest is showing seven films from February 11 to 13, and “to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Burlington-Bethlehem-Arad sister city program, the focus will be on fairly recent films from and about the Middle East.”

The films include the documentary In Search of Israeli Cuisine, by Roger Sherman, and Almost Friends, by Nitzan Ofir and Barak Heymann, as well as “Women in Sink,” a 2015 short by Iris Zaki.

The films from Arab countries are Theeb by Naji Abu Nowar, Open Bethlehem, by Leila Sansour, Omar, by Palestinian director Hany Abu-AssadWrite Down, I Am an Arab, by Ibtisam Mara’ana Menuhin and Wadjda by Haifaa Al-Mansour.

Full program here. 

 

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