‘AND I SAW STARS’ PULLS NO PUNCHES
Mon Dec 17,2007
Film Traces History of Tunisian Society Through the Glory Days of Boxing
Dubai, December 13, 2007: Among the many fascinating documentaries that are contenders for the Muhr Awards for Excellence in Arab Cinema, And I Saw Stars is the only one that gets into the ring with an ambitious project—reading the history of Tunisia through the rise and fall of the sport of boxing.
The sport acted as a point of unity for Christians, Jews and Muslims in the country for decades, and its history provides insight into the multi-ethnic nation’s growing sense of identity through the 1900’s. Hichem Ben Ammar introduces the audience to a range of characters: Hassen El Karrèche, the offal vendor of mythological proportions; the Jewish World Champion of the 1930’s, Young Pérez; Nourredine Adala, Head Judge at the fight of the century between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa; and concluding with the current champ Walid Smichet, residing in Montréal.
Ben Ammar explained that the film is not just about the ‘macho’ mystique of the sport. “Boxing can be understood to have incorporated the new rules of the social order,” he said, adding that boxing was a “revolt against social injustice,” providing a means of social mobility for fighters growing up in the streets of Tunis.
The stars of boxing represent the feelings and aspirations of ordinary Tunisians, according to Ben Hishem. For instance, the emergence of the first Muslim Tunisian boxer corresponded to the advent of a national conscience. During the 1920s, boxing became a Jewish sport in Tunisia, mostly due to Young Pérez being granted the title of World Champion in 1931. In the 1940’s and 50’s, Tunisia became a breeding-ground of boxers of different faiths and cultures, but as the 1950’s progressed, the Muslim boxer became the emblem of the national movement. The multi-ethnic nature of the sport changed after independence, when many Jewish and French boxers left, and it was abandoned in the 1960’s, leaving many boxers disillusioned and with no outlet to practise their craft.
He said: “It was fairly difficult for me to establish such relationships with these boxers who have been so disillusioned by the circumstances of their lives. Coming from some of the poorest quarters of the city, they are conditioned by cruelty and violence…these are very fragile people. Strong and vulnerable, it is their contradictory nature that makes them so captivating.”
Ben Ammar presents the film as the third in a trilogy of films about sub-groups in Tunisian society, following his Cafichanta (2000) and Raïs Labhar (2002), which dealt with Cabaret artists and tuna fishermen. He conducted over 100 hours of interviews in a period of almost three years to complete the film, often using his own salary and unpaid volunteers to assist in production.
“Words and language can be as forceful and piercing as any punch.”
And I Saw Stars will screen on Saturday, December 15 at 14:00 at Cinestar Mall of the Emirates Theatre 1.
The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) was launched in December 2004 under the theme: Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds.
DIFF is held under the honorary Chairmanship of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. DIFF is a not-for-profit cultural event, presented and organised by the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority.
As the previous editions of DIFF have demonstrated, the Festival not only presents cinematic excellence from around the world, but is also an important high-profile platform for aspiring home-grown talent.
“Bridging Cultures. Meeting Minds,” has been hailed by all as a unique and relevant theme to promote better understanding and mutual respect between different communities and countries.
Since its inception, DIFF has become an important meeting point for international and regional filmmakers and industry professionals setting the foundation for potential future collaborations.
The past three editions of DIFF have presented more than 250 films, documentaries and shorts from more than 48 countries.
In 2006 the festival took place at the magnificent Madinat Jumeirah resort. As a further commitment of DIFF’s endeavours to facilitate greater opportunities for regional Arab talent, the Muhr Awards was launched. Another first for DIFF in 2006 was the setting up of the Industry Office, which was established with a view to exclusively assist the needs of all registered delegates.
The fourth edition of the Dubai International Film Festival will take place from December 9-16 and will present the best of Arab and international cinema in the feature film, shorts and documentary formats. Building on the success of last year, DIFF 2007 will also host the Muhr Awards and the Industry Office with new features.
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