Tunisian film 'Hedi' brings Arabic-language sex scenes to Berlin

Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:50pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

BERLIN (Reuters) - "Inhebbek Hedi", the story of a love triangle that includes sex scenes unusual for an Arabic-language film, became the first Tunisian film shown in international competition in two decades when it screened on Friday at the Berlin film festival.

Director Mohamed Ben Attia said he was proud his work had been chosen for the honor of competing for the festival's top prize, the Golden Bear.

"I'd be very happy if there were more Arab films, but actually I don't really care - I want good films to be shown here," Attia said at a post-screening news conference.

Set just after the Tunisians ousted the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, the film centers on the character of Hedi, played by Majd Mastoura, who works in a dead-end job as a new-car salesman.

He is sent to work in new territory at the seaside resort of Mahdia days before his wedding, after an engagement closely managed by his overbearing mother, played by Sabah Bouzouita.

Business is slow, leaving him at loose ends at the resort. He strikes up a relationship that turns into a romance with Rim, a tourist-guide-cum dancer, played by Rym Ben Messaoud.

The sex scenes that ensue would not have caused much problem in decency-code American films of the 1940s and 50s. But they might raise eyebrows in the Arab world.

"Tunisian cinema is known for its daring," Dora Bouchoucha Fourati, the film's producer, said.   Continued...

Cast members Rym Ben Messaoud, Sabah Bouzouita (2nd R) Majd Mastoura (L) director Mohamed Ben Attia (C) and producer Dora Bouchoucha Fourati (R) pose during a photocall to promote the movie 'Inhebbek Hedi' at the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2016.     REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch