A history of the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage.
This history of the oldest film festival outside Europe and North America charts its role in the development of Arab and African cinema. Film festivals have lately become what one programmer calls "an alternative distribution network." The Carthage film festival, a biennial festival of Arab and African cinema founded in 1966, stands in opposition to the cultural domination of Hollywood imagery and, at least as far as the Arab world is concerned, popular Egyptian cinema as well. It was created by Tunisians who no longer wanted to be passive consumers of images produced by others; they wanted to produce their own reflections.
From the beginning, Carthage was conceived not simply as an opportunity to screen the small, but growing numbers of African movies and "new Arab film," but also to create networks towards the liberation of "Third World cinema." Over the past forty years, many now-celebrated African and Arab directors—such as the Senegalese Ousmane Sembène, the Malian Souleymane Cissé, the Burkinabè Idrissa Ouedraogo, the Algerian Merzak Allouache, the Syrian Mohamed Malas, and the Tunisians Naceur Khemir, Nouri Bouzid, Férid Boughedir, and Moufida Tlatli—made their international reputations at the JCC.
Starting a festival of Pan-Arab and Pan-African cinema was an audacious move in 1966, as this was the year in which the first Tunisian feature film was released. Inspired by intellectuals such as the Martiniquan psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, who wrote his most famous work Les Damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth, 1961) while in Tunisia, the state-supported JCC has sought cinematic independence above and beyond political independence. At the first Carthage festival, Arab and African masterworks such as Bab el hadid (Cairo Station, Youssef Chahine, 1958) and La Noire de (Black Girl, Ousmane Sembène, 1966) showed that, as one director recalled, "Africans could be creators in the history of cinema, not simply fans." Forty years later, the global media landscape has shifted dramatically; much Arab and African cinema is now co-produced with European television and Third World liberation has been supplanted by more pragmatic approaches.
A Festival of Colonized Peoples: The Carthage Film Festival and the Development of Arab and African Cinema draws on a variety of interdisciplinary methods: archival research, close readings, fieldwork, and interviews with producers and audiences. My history of the JCC also gives special attention to its role in fostering North African cinema and, in particular, the golden age of Tunisian cinema from 1986-1996.