88 mins | Tunisia | 2016
Arabic with English subtitles
“Those unacquainted with Tunisian current events will appreciate an intimate relationship film with characters they can cotton to – while others will spot not just the nation’s economic plight, but also pre- and post-Revolution parallels in terms of people numbly doing as they’ve always been told vs. those breaking free from expectation.” (Variety review, Berlin)
A 26-year old fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in front of the municipal office as a protest against rampant government corruption which desperate act ignited the country’s 2011 ‘Jasmine Revolution’ and ousted the long-time president – in turn, sparking off the ‘Arab Spring’ with uprisings erupting right across the Middle East. Hedi: A Wind of Freedom, Tunisian Director Mohammed Ben Attia’s debut feature, is set shortly after the revolution.
The film won not only the Best First Feature Award at the Berlin Festival, it was in the running for the Golden Bear itself, besides carrying away numerous top prizes from film festivals world over.* Player Majd Mastoura took the Festival’s Silver Bear for Best Actor. Hedi was co-produced by no less than the Dardenne Brothers of Belgium who number among the world’s finest filmmakers.
Attia’s protagonist Hedi is a shy young man who is passionate about drawing and so works with no enthusiasm as a car salesperson. While his domineering mother supervises preparations for his arranged marriage, just a week before the event, Hedi’s boss sends him to the coastal city of Mahdia to look for new clients. There he meets Rim, the hotel’s free-spirited entertainer who expects the same spontaneity from him. But even as he is falling in love with Rim, he must deal with flirtatious text messages from his fiancé.
Watch trailer here
Mohamed Ben Attia
Mohamed Ben Attia (b.1976) began by making short films, then graduated to features with Hedi. His second, Dear Son (an account of an elderly Tunis Dockworker who has invested everything in his troubled 19-year old son) was screened at the Directors Fortnight at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Coming up next is Weldi about a Tunisian father coming to terms with his son joining ISIS. Attia said in a recent interview,“The film is not about ISIS or reasons that lead our youth to leave but rather about the meaning of being a father.”