The Tunisian director Erige Sehiri presented the film “Under the figs” at the opening gala in the restored Alcazar cinema of the Moroccan city
Tangier, 28th of April 2023. The African Cinema Festival Tarifa – Tangier inaugurated for the first time the edition on the other side of the Strait, on the Moroccan side., The recently restored Alcazar cinema, an emblematic building from the period of the Spanish protectorate, hosted the opening gala in which the Instito Cervantes of Tangier collaborated with the support of the Spanish embassy in Morocco and the FRS.
The Mayor of Tarifa, Francisco Ruiz Giráldez, and the Mayor of Tangier, Mohammed Bachir ElAbdellaoui, welcomed by the Dakka Marrakchia of Tangier, playing the traditional Berber music, chaired a ceremony in Spanish and Dajira. The event, along with music and tea with Moroccan cakes, was attended by the director of the Instituto Cervantes in Tangier, the writer Javier Rioyo, and the cultural attaché of the Spanish Embassy in Morocco, José María Dayó.
According to the Mayor of Tarifa, Ruiz Giráldez, “The FCAT has been working for 20 years on building a strong cultural dialogue between the two continents, as well as the historical relationship between the north of Morocco and the south of the Iberian Peninsula. The festival claims the Strait of Gibraltar as a link that unites and not as a sea that divides.”
The Granadan-Tangierian actress Romina Sanchez was the mistress of ceremonies during a gala with free entrance until full capacity. Tangier-based singer Mouna Diaj, accompanied by guitarist Mounir Tkako, provided the music for this historic FCAT evening.
At the end of the ceremony, FCAT director Mane Cisneros introduced the Tunisian director Erige Sehiri, of the film that opens FCAT 2023, Under the Figs. This film was also presented in Tarifa on Friday evening at the Alameda Theatre by programmer and artistic director Marion Berger.
This film, which is Sehiri’s first feature film, was the Tunisian contribution to the Oscars in the category of best international film. This also applies for Carla Simón’s Alcarrás, a film with which Under the Figs has many similarities, not only in the story it tells, but also in the atmosphere, the treatment and the way it is shot with non-professional actors and actresses.
The story is about a group of young people, mainly women, and their flirts as they harvest figs, a fruit that serves as a metaphor in the film, with a vitality that overcomes the exploitative conditions to which they are subjected. In the film, the female characters talk about their relationship with men and desire in a way that is unusual in Arab films. These women express the nuances between the different degrees of freedom of Tunisian women, for example, in the way they wear the headscarf, in the face of rather lost and frustrated men.
Under the Figs won several post-production awards at the Venice Film Festival (Final Cut in Venice) and was selected for the 54th Quinzaine des réalisateurs at Cannes 2022.
“I wanted to give a face to these workers, who are normally invisible,” says the director of a story that grew out of her chance encounter with a rural Tunisian woman named Fidé. “So I started writing while listening to L’Estaca, a protest song born under Franco’s regime [by Lluís Llach]. In its Arabic-Tunisian version, of Yesser Jradi, it is a song about work, love and freedom, which I naturally chose as the music for the film’s credits”, says the director.
“It’s actually a flower, not a fruit,” she explains about the figs, “and we only eat the figs of female trees. If you’re not careful, the milk that comes out of the stalk can burn your fingers. So you have to be very careful when you pick it. It is also a very sensual fruit, fragile, but with strong leaves, just like the characters in the film. Fig trees are very beautiful trees. In summer, it is very hot in this region, and you can take refuge under them: they offer shelter, a respite. They envelop us, but also suffocate us a little. I wanted to visually build the idea that these girls are also suffocated in their narrow lives due to a lack of opportunities and a conservative family environment.”