HEDI / Un vent de liberté
Los Angeles Premiere • Drama • Tunisia, Belgium, France, 2016
DCP • 2.35 • Dolby 5.1 • Color • 93 min
Written and directed by: Mohamed Ben Attia
Cinematography: Frédéric Noirhomme
Film Editing: Azza Chaabouni, Ghalya Lacroix, Hafedh Laaridhi
Original Score: Omar Aloulou
Produced by: Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne (Les Films du Fleuve), Dora Bouchoucha Fourati (Nomadis Images), nadim cheikhrouha (Tanit Films)
Cast: Majd Mastoura (Hedi), Rym Ben Messaoud (Rim), Sabah Bouzouita (Baya), Hakim Boumessoudi (Ahmed)
International Sales: Luxbox
Winner of the Best First Feature at 2016’s Berlinale, this sensitive, absorbing drama is set in the historic Islamic city of Kairouan, in contemporary Tunisia. Hedi is a dutiful young man working as a car salesman. Apart from his passion for drawing and comics, Hedi is passively going through the motions of a life that his domineering mother Baya has laid out for him. This includes an impending arranged marriage to the docile, incurious Khedija. Then, on a business trip he meets Rim, an activities coordinator for a resort hotel. Rim is everything Khedija is not: independent, ambitious, worldly, free-spirited. For the first time in his life, Hedi sees a possibility to escape the suffocating dictates of his mother, and to pursue his passions on his own terms. But can he turn his back on deep-seated tradition and family obligation? Like an entire generation of post-revolution Tunisians, Hedi is torn between the old forces of social convention and the heady, seductive pull of liberation. Majd Mastoura won Berlinale’s Silver Bear for his portrayal of the conflicted Hedi.
In 2011, Mohamed Ben Attia, a promising writer/director with several award-winning shorts under his belt, saw Tunisian president Ben Ali swept from power during the Jasmine Revolution. The ensuing era of social upheaval would become the inspiration for Hedi. Ben Attia has even compared the sullen melancholy of his main character to the prevailing mood in Tunisia. Ben Attia studied finance before sidestepping to a career in film. One of his first jobs was that of a salesman, just like Hedi. As with most of his short films, Hedi is a character-driven story. This is partly why the Dardennes brothers joined the project as producers. They were close advisors during the script development phase, and the finished film echoes the compassion and bare bones naturalism that has become a signature of their work.