A group of young Tunisians raced down the streets of Tunis towards the movie theatre to drop off their short films for this year’s “48 Hours Film Project” minutes before the submission deadline.
The festival, in its fourth year, challenges aspiring film-makers to create a film in 48 hours. Their production must correspond to a designated genre and include a line or prop chosen by the event’s organisers.
Though small, the event has become an important occasion for Tunisia’s film community since it began in the country in 2014. A total of 34 teams submitted films as part of this year’s contest.
Akram Moncer, the general director of the festival, said it serves as a great opportunity for amateur film-makers to expand their horizons.
“The experience has been great so far as the first edition had more than 31 teams with 31 films and the success continued with the rest of the editions,” Moncer said. “As is the tradition, the winner of the Tunis 48 Hour Project will participate in Filmapalooza, which will be a great opportunity to learn from international film-makers.
“The winner gets to participate in an international festival that gathers participants from different parts of the world and participants attend panels and workshops to learn from the experiences of other international film-makers.”
He said the ten best films at Filmapalooza, a competition in which entries from more than 130 cities worldwide take part, will be screened in at Cannes.
“We hope every year that we make it as we learn more from the experience,” Moncer said.” There were teams that participated for four years and this helped them win the competition and learn more about the film industry.”
Participants took many creative approaches to the project. Some filmed in public areas such as cafés to get the perfect shot to shape their narrative.
Sarah Kanzari, whose short film “Relic” won first prize, said she was grateful the competition pushed participants to do their best in a limited amount of time.
“Such festivals are important, especially for amateurs as they push you to do your best, to learn more about film-making,” Kanzari said. “It is an opportunity to test your knowledge, your creativity. It is special because it puts you under enormous pressure and it really gets the best out of you.”
Raafet Abdeli, a 23-year old amateur film-maker who entered this year’s contest, said it “is an amazing platform to help young people work as part of a team.”
“What is special about these events that it provides even young people the opportunity to learn. You can attend and observe as a part of a team and learn about this without having to undergo a form of training,” Abdeli said.
Abdeli also noted that it gives participants the advantage of filming and screening their projects.
“It serves as a motivation to produce films and as you can see there is a great number of short films that were produced during the period of the festival. I mean, the idea and the editing and the filming all have to be in 48 hours and there was this issue with having to pick a genre. We had to work on that,” Abdeli said.
“It is a challenge that they restrict you to certain expressions that must be mentioned in the film and certain objects that must appear like we had to include the flag and that is a challenge to know how to work on that in 48 hours. It was challenging to deal with certain issues and cope with stress but it was something to live and enjoy.”
Kanzari’s “Relic,” the first-prize winner, fell into the “suspense” genre and focused on “immortality.”
Kanzari said she hopes there will be similar opportunities for amateur film-makers in the future.
“We don’t have producers in Tunisia who would give a chance to young and amateur film-makers. We have only a couple who have archaic vision of cinema, who would refuse to introduce a new spirit to cinema as they would stick to the same ideas and even clichés,” Kanzari said.
“As a young film-maker, you don’t find support and you have to make your own film on your own expense and rely on your own means to finance your project, which is why competitions like ‘48 Hours’ are great. You have the same means and same time to film and produce as everyone else.”
Roua Khlifi a regular Travel and Culture contributor in Tunis.