Amateur film competition challenges young Tunisians

A group of young Tuni­sians raced down the streets of Tunis towards the movie theatre to drop off their short films for this year’s “48 Hours Film Pro­ject” minutes before the submis­sion deadline.
The festival, in its fourth year, challenges aspiring film-makers to create a film in 48 hours. Their pro­duction must correspond to a des­ignated genre and include a line or prop chosen by the event’s organis­ers.
Though small, the event has be­come an important occasion for Tu­nisia’s film community since it be­gan in the country in 2014. A total of 34 teams submitted films as part of this year’s contest.
Akram Moncer, the general direc­tor of the festival, said it serves as a great opportunity for amateur film-makers to expand their horizons.
“The experience has been great so far as the first edition had more than 31 teams with 31 films and the success continued with the rest of the editions,” Moncer said. “As is the tradition, the winner of the Tu­nis 48 Hour Project will participate in Filmapalooza, which will be a great opportunity to learn from in­ternational film-makers.
“The winner gets to participate in an international festival that gath­ers participants from different parts of the world and participants at­tend panels and workshops to learn from the experiences of other inter­national film-makers.”
He said the ten best films at Fil­mapalooza, a competition in which entries from more than 130 cit­ies worldwide take part, will be screened in at Cannes.
“We hope every year that we make it as we learn more from the experience,” Moncer said.” There were teams that participated for four years and this helped them win the competition and learn more about the film industry.”
Participants took many creative approaches to the project. Some filmed in public areas such as ca­fés to get the perfect shot to shape their narrative.
Sarah Kanzari, whose short film “Relic” won first prize, said she was grateful the competition pushed participants to do their best in a limited amount of time.
“Such festivals are important, es­pecially for amateurs as they push you to do your best, to learn more about film-making,” Kanzari said. “It is an opportunity to test your knowledge, your creativity. It is special because it puts you under enormous pressure and it really gets the best out of you.”
Raafet Abdeli, a 23-year old ama­teur film-maker who entered this year’s contest, said it “is an amaz­ing platform to help young people work as part of a team.”
“What is special about these events that it provides even young people the opportunity to learn. You can attend and observe as a part of a team and learn about this without having to undergo a form of training,” Abdeli said.
Abdeli also noted that it gives participants the advantage of film­ing and screening their projects.
“It serves as a motivation to pro­duce films and as you can see there is a great number of short films that were produced during the period of the festival. I mean, the idea and the editing and the filming all have to be in 48 hours and there was this issue with having to pick a genre. We had to work on that,” Abdeli said.
“It is a challenge that they re­strict you to certain expressions that must be mentioned in the film and certain objects that must ap­pear like we had to include the flag and that is a challenge to know how to work on that in 48 hours. It was challenging to deal with certain is­sues and cope with stress but it was something to live and enjoy.”
Kanzari’s “Relic,” the first-prize winner, fell into the “suspense” genre and focused on “immortal­ity.”
Kanzari said she hopes there will be similar opportunities for ama­teur film-makers in the future.
“We don’t have producers in Tu­nisia who would give a chance to young and amateur film-makers. We have only a couple who have ar­chaic vision of cinema, who would refuse to introduce a new spirit to cinema as they would stick to the same ideas and even clichés,” Kan­zari said.
“As a young film-maker, you don’t find support and you have to make your own film on your own expense and rely on your own means to fi­nance your project, which is why competitions like ‘48 Hours’ are great. You have the same means and same time to film and produce as everyone else.” Roua Khlifi a regular Travel and Culture contributor in Tunis.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.