The November 2015 Carthage Film Festival in Tunisia showed there is a demand for more challenging and thought-provoking films, despite strong voices of disapproval in the region.
"Tunisia is as conservative as Morocco but the difference is that there different points of view can co-exist and debate is tolerated," says Nabil Ayouch. Ayouch's film Much Loved was shown at the festival, despite being banned in cinemas in Morocco.
Elsewhere Tunisians shone at the Dubai International Film Festival in December 2015. Leyla Bouzid won the award for best fiction film for À peine j'ouvre les yeux ('As I Open My Eyes'), a coming-of-age film that tells the story of the freedom-seeking teenager Farah ahead of the Arab Spring.
Lotfi Abdelli won the award for best actor for his role in fellow Tunisian Fares Naanaa's first full-length feature, Chbabek El Janna ('Borders of Heaven'), a film that questions Tunisia's modern yet religious identity. ●
Much Loved explores the lives of prostitutes in modern-day Marrakech, with sex scenes perceived as shocking in a Muslim country. In one, after a night of sex, dancing and alcohol, Noha, the main character played by actor Loubna Abidar, complains that her Saudi client was so harsh on her that he "turned her uterus over", and pours Coca-Cola on her vagina to ease her pain. Another scene shows Noha being raped by a policeman in a police station. The movie rushes that were available on the inter- net caused such a stir that the film never reached the big screen in Morocco. The reactions were so intense that Abidar was attacked in the streets of Casablanca, forcing her to exile herself to Paris where she now lives. Read More