At this year’s Berlin Film Festival, Tunisian drama Hedi won both the best first feature-film award, for director Mohamed Ben Attia, and best actor, for its star Majd Mastoura.
The film is an ambitious character study that tries to make sense of the so-called Jasmine Revolution of 2011 by telling the story of a man, Hedi, who is having serious doubts about getting married, with just a week to go before the ceremony.
“The first reading of the film, for those who do not know the history of Tunisia, is that this is the story of someone who is going through a depression and is confronted by the expectations of his family,” says Ben Attia. “He wants to be emancipated from the social code that his family imposes.”
Hedi, a car salesman, and not a very good one, is waiting for his impending wedding to Khedija (Omnia Ben Ghali). The event has been organised by his controlling mother, Baya (Sabah Bouzouita), a widow who expects them all to live under her roof. Hedi seems resigned to living under her dictat, until a work trip takes him to the coastal city of Mahdia, where he meets Rim (Rym Ben Messaoud), a free-spirited, slightly older and more wanderlust-driven woman.
“I like stories that are simple, but that behind them, they are more complicated,” says Ben Attia. “After the revolution, we had won a big moment of expression, but we had lost love, unfortunately. There is still violence.