Férid Boughedir is a filmmaker on a mission to make cinema known in his region, as well as make his region’s cinema known around the world. This Tunisian-born director’s first fiction feature film HALFAOUINE CHILD OF THE TERRACES (1990) to this day remains the best-known film from that country.
Boughedir has worked a journalist with a magazine called Jeune Afrique since 1971. He’s also a professor in Film Studies at Tunis University. Like the recently-departed Jacques Rivette Boughedir became known as a film critic and by way of the surveys of African and Arabic cinema that he’s authored.
Boughedir has just completed the third chapter of a trilogy, SCENT OF SPRING. SCENT is set in Tunisia at the end of 2010 against a backdrop of revolution and chaos. Zizou, a modern Candide, leaves his village in pursuit of work. Soon he will discover women and the vicissitudes of an ever more complicated world. When the Arab Spring reaches fever pitch, Zizou becomes a hero in spite of himself.
Based on real events, the film is told using a humorous and charmingly ironic tone through which director Boughedir burnishes a vivid portrait of modern Tunisia.
Boughedir is well-known on the festival circuit, having traveled to various first- and second-tier festivals and given countless useful interviews about the state of cinema in the Arab world for the last thirty years. He is particularly knowledgeable about the complicated dynamics between governments, filmmakers and cinema itself, a calculus that’s beset by the tug-of-war between government officials, the need for artistic expression and the realities of film financing.
HALFAOUINE and A SUMMER IN LA GOULETTE are distributed by Kino Lorber. The former got a limited run in the nineties. Film was distributed by International Film Circuit then, who flipped it to Kino which later merged with Lorber. Both films are available from their catalog in 35 mm. or DVD.
To sum it up, trying to get funding from one’s government in countries from that region is like getting blood from a stone. One of the positive consequences of the Arab Spring is that Tunisian filmmakers, prone to self-censorship beforehand, are now able to tell the stories they want to tell in the way they want to tell them.
Although Boughedir is getting up there in age (he was born in 1944) he represents an Arabic cinema that’s vital, poetic and lusts for life. Boughedir’s eloquent pleas for a cinema that must be allowed to thrive (see the interviews he’s given, and you’ll know what I mean) make him our noble filmmaker.
SCENT OF SPRING will be rolled out in European theaters in early April. No U.S. distribution planned as of this writing.