For one full week, Kelibia’s hotels, beaches, cafés and bars were taken over by cinephiles, artists, performers, and journalists from across the country and overseas. For one full week, the town’s dar eshebab, youth center, and its environs provided the setting for back-to-back film screenings, discussions, workshops, and musical performances. On Saturday, August 13, the 31st International Amateur Film Festival of Kelibia (FIFAK) came to a close. Under a bright sky illuminated by a silver moon, festival goers filled the youth center’s ampitheater for the last night, and the jury took its place, filling two entire rows in front of the stage.
The theater was full and the audience slow to settle. Printed copies of the FIFAK bulletin were circulated and the festival’s security crew weaved through isles and rows attempting to facilitate the “seating process.” Towards one end of the theater, distinguishable by their white t-shirts emblazoned with a black gavel enclosed in a red circle, a small group buzzed with controlled excitement. At about 10:20pm, after the MC had announced the evening’s program, the background music was silenced and stage lights cut. Attention was drawn to a projection on the main screen, Nawaat’s minute-long video on the economic reconciliation draft law which inspired the Manich Msamah [I will not pardon] social movement that recently carried out demonstrations in eleven cities throughout the country.
Not a moment after the clip ended, the chants began: “Shaab tounes, shaab horr! Al qanoun lan yemorr!” [Tunisian people! Free people! The law will not pass!] Several banner-toting protesters had broken away from the main group and perched themselves atop seats throughout the theater, while security scrambled to contain them. Many in the audience had left or mounted atop their seats as they strained to watch, or chanted, or held out their phones to record. A few remained unmoved, stubbornly facing the stage and looking bored or irritated. Security personnel continued to tug at protesters, and after some minutes of chanting and confusion, the confluence of bodies at one end of the theater broke like an open dam, and a river of people rushed towards the entrance of the theater. It seemed, for a few brief moments, that the evening’s rhythm had lost pace, but little by little the commotion subsided and the chants became a murmur as the next projection appeared on the screen.
Following the spirited intervention and audience’s overall enthusiastic participation in the action, the MC’s remarks about “the Tunisian woman” in honor of the national holiday, and about “Tunisian youth” who had “chased away the dictator,” seemed uninspired, formulaic. Nonetheless, an energy of activism was sustained throughout the evening, filmmakers and artists invited on stage often affirming their solidarity with Manich Msamah and evoking in turn the importance of encouraging youth to be creative, productive, and to pursue their artistic and cultural interests.
Indeed, the first half of the night’s program was dedicated to presenting the participants and products of the festival’s four youth workshops. For The Wedding Project (Association Culturelle Corps Citoyen), eleven teens took the stage, entertaining the audience with a whirlwind of audiovisual input– slam, dance, music, watercolor, and shadow. Next, the participants of Histoires Kélibiennes [Kelibian stories] showed their stop-motion film-short “with residents as actors and the town as decor.” A series of photographs called “Mains de femmes, coeur marin,” [Women’s hands, sea heart] the product of a photo research workshop by Zakaria Cheibi, portrayed craftswomen at work—handling pottery, peppers, baskets—“magic in their hands and abundance in their hearts.” Finally, in a short produced by “L’ombre du corps,” [body shadow] the actors—who appeared only as silhouettes, were not only the protagonists of their story but also its scenery, configuring their bodies into the shapes of chairs, desks, motorcycles, and taxis.
It was near midnight when the juries were invited onto the stage to present their selections for the festival’s 76 (26 national and 50 international) competing films. Director Sonia Chamkhi, actress/author Sabah Bouzouita, director Ridha Tlili, and writer Amine El Ghozzi announced their decisions for the national competition: first place to “Catown” by Houcem Cherif (FTCA Hammamet), second place to “Un des nôtres” [One of our own] by Youssef Elbehi and Halim Jerbi (FTCA Hammam-Lif), third place to “Une Île aux enchères” [Island for sale] by Majdi Kaanich (FTCA Heni Jaouharia, Sfax). Senegalese director Moussa Toure, Tunisian actress Hélène Catzaras, Lebanese director Jocelyne Saab, Kosovan photographer Ferdi Limani, and Argentinian director Liliana Paolinelli presented awards for the international competition: first place to “Blue Ana azra9” [Blue, I am blue] by Abou Gabi Bidayat (Syria); second to “Solo,” by Nayera Alsawary (Egypt), third to “Triton chasseur de son” [Triton, sound hunter] by Malek Khmiri (Tunisia).