A few weeks after Film Forward left Tunisia back in December, the “Jasmine Revolution” began. While visiting Tunisia, our team had extended conversations with several students during the Film Forward weekend of screenings. The series drew a number of bright, highly engaged college graduates, and in our one-on-one conversations we heard a yearning for openness and opportunity.
Tunisia has a highly literate population; back in 1956 when the Republic was formed, leaders instituted universal education for both men and women. During the decades-long regime of the now departed President Ben Ali, freedom of expression was limited, and corruption and nepotism at the top meant that economic opportunities were limited. We now know that young people were connecting exponentially on Facebook, sharing their dreams of a new Tunisia. In addition, the Wikileaks cable revealed the U.S. government's concerns about the regime, which likely empowered the quiet opposition.
Meriam, a young woman who had volunteered for the Obama campaign back in 2008 when she was visiting the U.S., recently sent me these inspiring notes about her thoughts on the crucial role art will play this time in history and I wanted to share her words here:
Tunisia as you may know has been going through a Revolution that will hopefully lead to freedom and democracy!!
It is such an exciting time for us and definitely a turning point in the history of the Arab world (as this is the first time in the history of post-colonial Arab world that a dictator and a regime is overthrown by the protests of the people), and the world in general!
I hope that Sundance Institute will consider documenting this, by all measures, historical event. I hope you remember that we talked to you about the inherent relationship between freedom in Tunisia and art... We are full of hope that this newly-obtained freedom will nurture and be nurtured by art.
BTW, do you remember that I told you that my wildest dream is getting elected as the president of Tunisia? Well now I think this is becoming possible!!! I hope that you will be coming back again to a FREE Tunisia!
Meriam, a Tunisian Film Forward attendee. Photo by: Patricia Finneran.
I am very glad that you are taking interest in Tunisia as I know how much art can help harnessing change in both Tunisia and the rest of the world. Art will have to play a crucial role at this particular time as it will document and write history for upcoming generations and thus highly influence the communal memory and even the global memory. It would be such an honor for me to take part in this.
I am still hoping to go back to the States for postgraduate studies, but for now I am trying to find out what I would like to study exactly through experimenting with various domains. I promise to write you a lengthy email as soon as possible concerning the developments in Tunisia after I talk to some of my friends and I get to know a larger scope of opinions.
Hope you are doing great as well! Keep me updated about your activities!