Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

Dora Bouchoucha (center) is presiding over the festival. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 11 July 2018

Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

DUBAI: Some of the Middle East’s leading ladies made an appearance at the first-ever edition of the Manarat film festival in Tunisia this week, including Egypt-based actress Hend Sabri, Jordanian starlet Saba Mubarak and Tunis-born Dorra Zarrouk.
The film festival, which translates to mean “light house” in English, kicked off Tuesday with a screening of Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated “Fuocoammare” and is set to run until July 15.
The 2016 film centers on the Italian island of Lampedusa, whose inhabitants are left shaken when waves of migrants land upon its shores.
Organizers delayed the official opening ceremony after eight members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed Sunday in a “terrorist attack” near the border with Algeria, the interior ministry said, the country’s deadliest such incident in over two years.
“In view of the painful events … (the ceremony) has been postponed until Tuesday, July 10.
May God bless our righteous martyrs,” a post on the festival’s official Facebook page read.
Presiding over the event is Tunisia’s first female film producer, Dora Bouchoucha, who also helmed Tunisia’s Carthage Film Festival in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
In 2017, the Huffington Post called her “a born rebel, a trailblazer of wonderful self-assurance, elegance and beauty” and in 2018, she proved that she still has a lot to offer by attending the Cannes Film Festival premiere of the feature film her company, Nomadis Images, co-produced, “Weldi,” or “Dear Son” in English.
The festival aims to strengthen the relationship between Tunisia and countries in the Mediterranean Basin. To that end, organizers are putting on a show of more than 50 films, including movies from Egypt, Algeria, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina, among various other countries.
Highlights include “Ghost Hunting,” a 2017 film by director Raed Andoni, and 2017’s “The Man Behind the Microphone,” which tells the story of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music.
The festival will also feature a competition section that will see such films as “The Blessed,” an Algerian offering directed by Sofia Djama, and “A Ciambra,” directed by Itay’s Jonas Carpignano, go head to head for the top prize. The judging panel includes Lebanese actress Manel Issa, Egyptian actress Bushra Rozza and Palestinian actress Manal Awad.
Cinephiles can also enjoy a host of films that are set to be broadcast on public beaches, including La Goulette, La Marsa and Hammam-Lif among others.
For her part, Sabri set to be honored for one of her first-ever movies, 1994 drama “Samt El-Qusur” — “The Silences of the Palace” in English — and Rozza will get a nod from the organizers for her film on sexual harassment, “678.”
Six films to watch at the festival
Tunisia’s Manarat festival is set to run until July 15 and is showing 52 films from across the Arab world and beyond. Here, we take a look at some of the thought-provoking movies that will entertain audiences over the next few days.
‘Withered Green’
Directed by Mohamed Hammad, this Egyptian film tells the story of a defining week in protagonist Iman’s life as she attempts to convince her uncles to attend her younger sister’s engagement. However, a shocking discovery leads her to do away with such traditions. The film, which premiered in 2016, won the Muhr Feature Award for Best Director at the Dubai International Film Festival.
‘Ghost Hunting’
Director Raed Andoni placed a newspaper advert in Ramallah looking for former inmates of Jerusalem’s Moskobiya interrogation center in this 2017 film. The director then oversaw the creation of a replica of the interrogation facility using the memories of the former inmates and filmed the process, as well as interviews with the men.
‘Paradise Now’
This hard-hitting movie tells the story of two childhood friends who are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad and released in 2005, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the 2006 Academy Awards, but narrowly missed out. It did, however, win a Golden Globe in the same year.
‘The Man Behind the Microphone’
The 2017 film is a portrait of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music. Directed by Claire Belhassine, it tells the tale of his rise to stardom, as well as his family life.
‘Men Don’t Cry’
Directed by Alen Drljevic, this 2017 film plays out in a boarded up Serbian hotel that plays host to a group of veterans undergoing therapy almost 20 years after the end of the Yugoslav Wars. The complexities of the period of hostility are explored through the men and their tangled relationships with one another as they try to battle their sense of shame years after the end of the violent conflict.
‘Laila’s Birthday’
Starring Mohammad Bakri, Areen Omari and Nour Zoubi and directed by Rashid Masharawi, this film tells the story of Abu Laila who finds himself driving a taxi to make ends meet. On his daughter’s seventh birthday, he tasks himself with finding her a cake, but the chaos of daily life in Palestine hampers his plans.


Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2019

Lack of spirit leaves World War II saga hanging midway

CHENNAI: Movies on World War II have delighted cinema audiences for years. Nobody can forget the daring Allied escape in the 1965 “Von Ryan’s Express” with Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard driving a train through Nazi-occupied territory.

There were others in that decade and earlier such as David Lean’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai” about British prisoners of war building a railway in malaria-infested Burma (now Myanmar). These were great classics, but recent efforts have not been as memorable.

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Roland Emmerich’s just-opened “Midway” comes nowhere close to the 1950s and 1960s war adventures. Despite audiences still being thirsty for WWII sagas and a star-studded cast (Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Ed Skrein and Nick Jonas), the film is unmoving, mainly because of the shallow characters. If the dialogues are stiff, the dramatic potential – including the relationship among the men – appears to have been left midway.

The film begins with Japan’s December 1941 air attack on the US naval base in Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, which dragged America into the conflict, and the flick follows America’s revenge mission culminating in the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

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For the US, it was a victory against all odds giving them control of the Pacific’s Midway atoll. It was also a major triumph of human spirit, but the film does not quite capture it.

Most of the exploits relate to real-life fighter pilot Dick Best (Skrein), whose devil-may-care attitude earns him the title “cowboy.” His wife Ann (Moore), the only female character, urges him on but seems a washed-out figure. However, there is plenty of action in the air with dog fights, bombings and pilots ejecting from burning planes high above the ground.

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For fans of singer Jonas, his small but significant part may appeal. He is sailor Bruno Gaido whose spontaneous and heroic action during a Japanese raid earns him promotion.

“Midway” plays at three levels, including one about Japanese military officers, and was shot in Hawaii and Montreal with a lot of computer graphics thrown in. The camera work (Robby Baumgartner) is impressive, but somewhere the soul is missing, and the characters fail to come across as real people.

Despite this, the film opened atop the North American box office last weekend with a reported $17.5 million in ticket sales.