Obviously, after a political event like a revolution, material and content are being served on a silver plate for all artists. Therefore it is no surprise to see the proliferation of documentaries about the so called “Jasmin Revolution” in Tunisia. 7 vies (7 lives) is one of those, along with Wled Ammar or 7 1/2 more recently.
However, directors Lilia Blaise, a journalist, and Amine Boufaied approached something really interesting in their documentary. They studied a phenomenon currently happening – or at least supposedly crossing some minds – in the country; the nostalgia of a dictator.
Real quick context setting: in 1987, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali came into power, and stayed there for 24 years. Then on the 14th of January, the Tunisian population threw him out, because of inequalities, corruption and so on. Now, 3 years after that “revolution” people are regretting their overly narcissistic former president. Why? Is it because, islamists took over and it is no fun at all? Is it because democracy is taking a long time to be set? Is it because of increasing insecurities? Is it because the situation of people from low social classes are getting worse? Unfortunately, even though the documentary is triggering some important issues, which should be questioned by Tunisians a few weeks before the legislative elections, it isn’t exhaustive. Indeed, 7 vies doesn’t develop, it overflies several things without digging deeper into them.
It discusses cult of personality, the illusions established by Ben Ali’s regime, the incremental rejection of this regime by the population and overfly this process, and finally the outburst and its consequences. Despite interesting and clever interventions of journalists, researchers, lawyers etc. the notion of nostalgia, and why people felt nostalgic, that is to say, the psychological aspect of it, wasn’t husked, wasn’t fully investigated, and explained.
This might also be due to a penalizing time format of 56′.
However, this is unfortunate, because of the potential behind the directors, and their meticulousness in choosing their speakers. 7 vies regrettably lacked a structured plan, a more precise thematic, which led to leaving spectators wanting more, and feeling unsatisfied somehow.
It is true, documentaries can be tricky, because it implies either subjectivity, or radical objectivity. In the first case, you need to argue, support your principal idea, develop a precise thematic and convince or denounce. On the other hand, the objective documentary requires massive research, and impartiality; it is a report. Obviously, I am caricaturing a little bit, because, in reality a documentary can be shapable and combine subjectivity and objectivity, or merges other things, but let say that for obtaining a constructive work that doesn’t lose bits of itself here and there, you must decide either you will approach a subject from a subjective or an objective perspective and here again, define with extreme accuracy your problematic.
Anyway, 7 vies is worth being seen because even though it isn’t exhaustive, it raises questions, and provokes reactions in viewers. You are inclined to think about your system, think about this nostalgia of a dictator, if it is real, provocation or despair. And, when I went to its premiere in Tunisia a few days ago, it was followed by a Q&A, extremely exciting, evoking interesting questions and answers, debates and hypotheses, and I believe by catalyzing that, directors Blaise and Boufaied accomplished something big.