I was at the premiere of Hamza Ouni’s documentary; El Gort, and it made me laugh, and got me emotional almost simultaneously. In almost 7 years of shooting, the Tunisian director covered the lives of two boys working on the hay trade in the city of El M’hamdia, in Tunisia, where his own father used to work. It was possibly felt like a kind of tribute to his dad, but it was even more perceived as a critic towards the Tunisian government.
Indeed, Hamza Ouni started his journey with those boys when Ben Ali was still president. He captured how hard it was for them to struggle and survive. Then, he moved to after the “revolution”, and finally, before and after the elections of October 2011. Did something changed? I’ll let you go and get the answer by yourself.
However, every character has this embedded idea of running away from Tunisia, to Italy principally, but anywhere would also fit them, to acquire a better standard of living. And this is not new, for years, young Tunisians dreamt of European countries, imagining them as heavens. Well, they are craving for opportunities, and the two protagonists even learnt some words in Italian, followed the French trends etc. And if they knew the hay business was so hard and was a shitty job, they wouldn’t have dropped school in the first place. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that money became a primitive need for them. Indeed, to support the family, to improve their lives, they needed to work the earlier they could, and that even though, they were exploited. Hamza Ouni, wanted to understand in a deeper way, their way of thinking and what pushes them to do one thing or another.
The protagonists are so real, and natural, they are full of joy despite their condition and you almost believe it’s a movie and they are actors, and you are projected into their world, hanging out with them. When the documentary comes to its end, you miss those guys, and that’s what was extraordinary, and what really surprised me. It’s no wonder the director won the price, during the 7th Abu Dhabi Film Festival, in the Documentary Competition, of Best Director from the Arab World, considering the fact that it was his first film.
In a nutshell, I never saw a Tunisian documentary this good, since I started getting interested in them, and I recommend this one, to not only Tunisian people but also everyone throughout the world. Big up to Hamza Ouni.
You can also find my article in here => The Pulse the online magazine of my University