Tunisia hails Cannes success

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Blue is the Warmest Colour, the taboo-breaking love story of two lesbians, won coveted Palme d’Or.

Blue

The Tunisian Minister of Culture, Mehdi Mabrouk congratulated French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche for winning the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, the prestigious Palme d’Or award, for his film “Blue is the Warmest Colour.” However, the Minister made no mention of the explicit lesbian relationship featured in the film, a taboo subject in the Arab-Muslim world. The content raises questions about how it will be treated in Tunisian society

Mr  Mabrouk  congratulated the director for the international recognition he had received,  and wished him much success in the world of cinema. The ministry gave no indication about when or if  the film might be released in Tunisian cinemas.

In his acceptance speech at the Cannes awards ceremony, Tunis-born Kechiche, 52, dedicated his prize to the young people of France, and to “the revolution in Tunisia”.

Referring to Tunisian youth , he said, “They also have this aspiration to live free, to express themselves freely and to love in full freedom”.

In an interview with radio station Shems FM, Tunisian film director and producer Ridha Elbehi congratulated Kechiche for the award and emphasized the importance of such an honour in recognising Tunisian cinema, saying that all Tunisians should celebrate this accomplishment.

Steven Spielberg, the head of the Cannes film festival jury, described the movie as “a great love story” in a press conference posted  on the festival’s official website.

“The fact it is a love story that made us all to feel privileged to be the fly on the wall, to have been invited to see this story of deep love and of deep heartbreak evolve from the beginning in a wonderful way. The director did not put any constraints on the narrative. He let the scenes play the way they play out in real life,” Spielberg said.

”We were absolutely spellbound by the brilliance of the performances, […] and especially the way the director observed his players, and the way he just let the characters breathe. The spaces were as important as what they said and what they were not saying,” he added.

Since the Arab Spring uprising in January 2011 that toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, art galleries, films and cultural festivals in Tunisia have been targeted, sometimes violently, by radical Islamists who were suppressed under the former regime.

In October 2011, a showing by private Nessma TV channel of the French-Iranian film Persepolis sparked attacks by angry Salafists on the station’s offices. In 2012, a court slapped a small fine on the television network’s owner for undermining morality and public order by screening the film, which contains scenes depicting God.

Kechiche began his career as an actor, appearing in Tunisian films by directors Ridha Behi and Nouri Bouzid before becoming a director himself. His previous long-feature films “The Secret of the Grain” and “Black Venus” earned him critical praise.

Ferid Boughedir, another Tunisian director, was also honoured at Cannes, where he was inducted into the French Legion of Honour.

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