Articles published in this space do not necessarily reflect Nawaat's opinions.

When Covid-19 hit our country, no one knew exactly what to expect. Between safety measures and suffocating restrictions that made the poor poorer and the rich richer, artists struggled to come up with quality content. While art is an imitation of reality, it can also be an escape from it. In this spirit, a quiet movement emerged from within the shaky walls of Bab Jdid, in downtown Tunis.

Project 1008 was a beautiful offspring of the pandemic. The story of how it came to life couldn’t be more simple. Five friends who spent all of their time together, either playing soccer in a narrow alley or running from the cops, stumbled upon a filmmaking competition about life during Covid. Each person had a role. Ahmed was the videographer, Louay was in charge of subtitles, Seif was the photographer, Yassine the designer and his brother Abdelkader the coordinator. And so they set to filming.

Their aimless wandering became purposeful, as they filmed from the minute they woke up until the curfew forced them to go home at night. Their main focus was showcasing different types of people trying to make it out of the hood, from rappers and musicians to female basketball players. The interviews that took place in addition to all that was filmed were organic and very spontaneous.

After pouring their blood and sweat into this body of work, the friends felt that it wasn’t fair to edit and crop the raw material they collected. What started as a feature film—and never ultimately saw the light of day—bloomed into Project 1008. The project aims to promote talent that shines with no spotlight, acting as an independent mediator between the artist and the public, inviting names whispered in the underground scene like the musical sibling duo Imene and Ali Mourali.

While interviewing one of the project’s founders Ahmed Dhawedi, I was marked by something he said:

Even when one of them [the invited artists] did something we didn’t quite understand, we made sure they knew we didn’t get it but we also went out of our way to grasp it and expressed explicitly that we respected their craft.

This need to understand, this hunger for knowledge stems from the reality that, in general, most people belittle what they don’t know. Project 1008 abhors this reflex.

It takes courage to fight the current, and is always easier to just go with the flow. And fighting the current is even harder when the target audience is underprivileged youth. The project’s founders are not only working to spread new ideas but also to deconstruct old ones and to confront a mass culture controlled by mainstream media and hidden agendas lobbied by economic corporations.

Another beautiful concept the group covered was anarchy, which they focused on in interviews with artists as a means of showing different points of view; while Tunisian Mc Phénix defined anarchy as chaos, another rapper, Absy, described it with a great deal of sensitivity as« a delicate storm of violent intimacy ». Neither of them is wrong. In this vein, once again, Project 1008 assumes a role that ethical media outlets should play. By showcasing uncensored and diverse views, they are working to inform a generation of youth so that they might not only accept, but also encourage, differences in opinion.

Youth-led movements are taking place all over the world. For third-world countries, however, these movements are necessary in order to shape generations of youth. In these desperate times, we need revolutionaries, visionaries and artists who know how to transcribe our struggles and our joys. The important lesson here is to believe in ideas, to believe in potential. To end on a positive note, I quote one of my favorite movies, V for Vendetta: “Beneath this mask there is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof.”