Tunisian Najwa Slama, laureate at the 13th Festival Cinéma d'Afrique d'Angers (12-17 April 2011) won two awards, Best Short Film and Jeune Public Short Film, for her film Tiraillement.
Kamel Ben Ouanes profiles Najwa Slama and reviews the film Tiraillement in an article published on 14 October 2010 (Jet Set Magazine). Translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson.
A television producer and director before making her debut film, Tiraillement (2010), Najwa Slama had to first become familiar with film production before yielding to the temptation of making a film. The desire to take the plunge had always lived within Najwa Slama, perhaps her work with Canal Horizon as television director followed by the creation of her production company Digipro, was in fact, a preparation for filmmaking. Though it was a dream that stayed with her, the two main obstacles that constantly surfaced as an excuse for the delay was finding the time and a meaningful story. Though we know that these so-called impediments are in truth, mere excuses invented to indefinitely postpone the decision to tackle the project. Now, the maturation process has come to completion. Najwa Slama has finally left her discreet role as producer to address the public directly, delivering a work that captures the complexity of reality with a consummate technical and intellectual mastery.
Rather than rehash the classic love triangle, Tiraillement subverts its archetypal mechanism. Though the personalities of the two sisters are very different—one is liberated, the other veiled—they never yield to feelings of rivalry or jealousy against the fickleness of the young man—lover of the first with desires to marry the second. Quite the contrary, like a twin matrix, the two sisters appear rather like two sides of the same being. The interchangeability of their intense closeness completely neutralizes the dialectic of the mask and face. So that the young man, deciding to abandon the liberated woman in favor of the veiled sister, will not only be dismissed by both, but worse, he will be the object of their caustic derision. The apparatus of an amorous rivalry is neutralized. The disruption of the love triangle is not structured around a religious-secular or puritan-easy virture binary, but rather Najwa Slama is interested in the comedy of men and their sad fragility, which evolve into a regressive and reactionary façade. The film confronts the intelligent complicity of women and the ridiculous ingenuity of men. In this case, if the theme of the veil informs the characters' reactions, it is a sign of the times, a stealthily moving symbol of our epoch. For Najwa Slama's film makes every effort to dig deep into the strata of our contemporary society to unearth the inert in the midst of stunning change. In other words, in pursuit of the true nature of relationships between men and women behind the posturing and decoration laid out in the comedy of manners. Of course, this comedy requires the establishment of a specific ideological and narrative device: the television (puritan or liberal) enslaves, alienates and indoctrinates; boys are torn between the need of hedonistic pleasures and the need for traditional conservatism. And, finally, the veil worn by the sister cannot suppress her femininity and her natural need to be desired.
All of these plot devices demonstrate that Najwa Slama's approach draws from immediate reality, not to define or question it, but rather that it may embrace a cinema that is seen essentially as a seriously playful picture of everyday life. Where the woman wearing the veil is shown in the guise of a lascivious dancer and where the macho seducer is reduced to a mere buffoon. Or better yet, where amorous passion is a prelude to eternal discord between people. Nawja Slama unmasks all these social stereotypes and at the same time debunks the established code of illusion. Which indicates how much cinema, a mirror of its time, sharpens the eye and enlightens the mind.