Tunisian revolution on the big screen at Cannes

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The Independent Culture

Police firing teargas at revolutionaries belting out the Tunisian anthem: these and other striking images of ordinary people dismantling a dictatorship will feature on the big screen at Cannes this year.

"No more fear", a 74-minute documentary, was shot on HVD film in the midst of the uprising that led to Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's political demise on January 14, its director Mourad Cheikh told AFP ahead of the screening at the Cannes film festival on May 20.

The Cannes showing ends an 11-year absence for Tunisia from the big screen.

The creator of short films like "le Patre des etoiles" (The shepherd of the stars) made in 2003, Cheikh said the selection was "unexpected".

"We sent a copy of the film to Cannes, we worked like crazy. At first they responded that we were not selected, but later an assistant (of the festival) informed us that we had it," said the director who practices his profession between Tunisia and Italy.

Amid a rush of last-minute preparations for the screening, Cheikh explains that the title "is a slogan that appeared on the walls of Tunis during the revolution".

"The slogan symbolises a wall of fear that collapsed" in Tunisia, he added.

The film, in Arabic with English and French sub titles, was shot on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis, the epicentre of the revolt.

"It was a matter of urgency for me, I had to shoot: the police, the people who ran after the teargas was used," said Cheikh.

Three main characters feature in the film: advocate Radhia Nasraoui, blogger Lina Ben Mhenni and citizen Karem Cherif, representing all Tunisians "who defended their neighbourhoods against looters and snipers".

A character in the film laments the pre-revolution state of his country and states: "This revolution is not the fruit of misery, but rather the cry of despair of a generation of graduates.

"It is neither the bread nor the jasmine revolution. Jasmine does not result in death, does not give rise to martyrs," referring to the nickname for the revolutions in the Arab world.

"It is the revolution of a people's devotion. We shall never again have any fear for this new Tunisia," states the narrator.

This sums up, said the director, the average Tunisian's frame of mind: "That of the youth who made the first revolution of the virtual era as well as the older people who defied fear in order to resist the yoke of dictatorship."

For film producer Habib Attia, the screening at Cannes raises the likelihood of distribution on European markets and in Gulf states.

Two images of the revolution remain etched on his memory. The first, "two young police blocking a crowd of protesters from Bourguiba.

"Facing the crowd chanting the national anthem, these two started crying; they understood that their place was with the protesters. Their tears released mine," said Attia.

In a later incident, "I really cried when a friend recounted to me the last words of a youth after he was shot: 'I will not die and if I die, I will not leave before he (Ben Ali) leaves."

The young man died and Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.

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