Cannes' Middle East films show Arab Spring unfurl

Sat May 26, 2012 8:25am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The "Arab Spring" is the focus of two movies at Cannes this year as film makers present tentative steps towards democracy on the big screen, one year after political upheaval in Libya and Egypt.

While both films deal with contemporary events in the Middle East, "The Oath of Tobruk" ("Le Serment de Tobrouk") is a French-language documentary about the Libyan war with a highly subjective slant.

"After the Battle" ("Baad el Mawkeaa") is a fictional account of the uprising in Cairo from Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah.

At the centre of The Oath of Tobruk - which is not included in the official competition in Cannes - is Bernard-Henri Levy, a prominent French left-wing intellectual, who is co-director, narrator and central subject.

The film follows him meeting rebel leaders and convincing former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to take the lead in the West's response to the crisis, which resulted in Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow last year.

"It's a film that tells how the international community ... can reverse the course of things, stop a massacre and save a population," Levy told a news conference on Saturday, accompanied by several Libyan representatives.

Levy always appears camera-ready in his film, wearing a crisp suit as he walks through rubble, and we see him being cheered at rallies, greeted by politicians (one of whom likens Levy to the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire) and interviewed on TV.

We hear little from the rebel leaders themselves and nothing from the local population.   Continued...

Director Bernard-Henry Levy poses during a photocall for the film "Le Serment de Tobrouk" at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 25, 2012. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier