Tunis is only an hour and 15 minutes flight from Marseille. The French influence is still in evidence, not least the prominence of the language, but also politics, architecture and vibrant cafe culture. But it’s inimitably Arab too, part of the Mahgreb and proud of it.
On our first afternoon we familiarized ourselves with the bustle of central Tunis, dominated by ave Bourghuiba and the labyrinthine 8th century Medina. Our hotel has been another excellent, if hilariously retro choice. La Maison Doree boasts a gold elevator, a 1950s phone booth and wi-fi in the ‘rez of put shoes only’.
Supper was shakshouka and fresh dorade at La Petite Hutte whilst the local men smoked incessantly and watched Chelsea v. Barcelona.
Our first meeting the following morning was with Dalenda Mekki of the Tunis Chamber of Commerce who works with Richard in Marseille on the Moviemed programme amongst many others. She is a formidable woman. Amongst other things, she works in enterprise, export, communication & training and tourism.
We then took two taxis (drivers in Tunis never admit they don’t know where they’re going) to Sindbad Productions, run by Anglo-Tunisian partnership of Philippa Day and Moez Kamoun. Working across the film spectrum of commercials to international co-productions, Sindbad are very ‘can do’. We met with similar enthusiasm from Quinta, a Franco-Tunisian company whom we met in the rain (!) over coffee on ave Bourghuiba. Ad-hoc addition of a local filmmaker was enlightening to get a perspective on the position for magrehbi filmmakers within the festival industry. On our final day, en route to the airport, we met with Habib Attia of Cinetelefilms who believes there will be interest from Tunisian’s many young filmmakers (there are five national film schools in the country!), so long as the project can be as accessible as possible considering the language and financial requirements of potential applicants. The drivers of Cinetelefilms got us smoothly and swiftly to the airport! Next stop Cairo.