When you think of the Cannes Film Festival, you think of those red carpet movies everyone is talking about.
But the event is also an opportunity for indie films to get seen by a wide and international audience.
Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s debut feature film ‘Challat of Tunis’ is one of them. She said it is “neither a documentary nor fiction. It’s what you call a mockumentary – fiction based on real events, but shot in a documentary style.”
The film is based on a real event that took place in 2003, when a mysterious knife attacker made headlines as he rode through the Tunisian capital on a scooter, slashing the buttocks of women on the sidewalk. He was never found.
It was not an isolated event says the film’s director:
“This phenomenon didn’t just occur in 2003, the same thing happened in Tunisia at the end of the 1980s, in Egypt in 2009, and in Morocco too. So it’s like an urban legend which keeps making the headlines in that part of the world,” said Ben Hania.
The movie offers a wry critique of macho chauvinism in Arab countries and is the latest in a string of low-budget films born from the Arab Spring movement. Shooting in hand-held mock-doc style, Ben Hania relies on black humour to get her message across:
“For me, humour is part of Tunisian culture. In hard times, you can always laugh at yourself, it’s a virtue that carries hope and I wanted to show that in my film,” she said.
‘Challat of Tunis’ has already opened to popular acclaim in Tunisia.
It is one of eight movies being shown as part of Cannes’ ACID programme, dedicated to helping independent films find distribution.
ACID takes its name from the initials of its sponsor – the Association du Cinema Independent pour sa Diffusion.
French screenwriter and filmmaker Frédéric Ramade is ACID’s co-director: “What’s unique about the movies we select is that most of them don’t have distributors at the time they are screened here, so being shown in Cannes is an amazing opportunity for them, allowing most of the movies selected – if not all – to find a distributor,” he explained.
This year’s ACID selection includes films from France, Tunisia and the Czech Republic. ‘Challat of Tunis’ will be out in France in 2015.