Press Release

العربية Deutsch

Cinematic Art as Way of Opposing
Social Hypocrisy

The Tunisian film director Nouri Bouzid will be awarded the

Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought 2007

(Berlin) This year’s Ibn Rushd Prize goes to the film director Nouri Bouzid for his remarkably courageous film work, in which he expresses his views against injustice and contributes to critical thought in the Arab society.

The Prize competition of the Ibn Rushd Fund for Freedom of Thought was announced in the beginning of 2007 to be awarded to „an Arab film maker, who has dedicated himself to freedom and democracy and has tackled the problems of social and political taboos through his works, critically investigating related phenomena and practices from a new perspective“.

The Ibn Rushd Fund, named after the philosopher Ibn Rushd/Averroes (1126-1198), supports freedom of speech and democracy in the Arab world by annually awarding the Ibn Rushd Prize. The focus of the theme varies every year: So far, the prizes covered the fields of journalism, women’s rights, criticism, politics, philosophy, literature, reform of Islam and human rights. This year, the prize will be awarded to a film maker, who has rendered outstanding services to promoting democracy through his film work. This will be the ninth time the Ibn Rushd Prize is awarded.

Nouri Bouzid (*1945) is one of the most dinstinguished and successful film directors in the Arab world. Having grown up in the industrial city of Sfax (second biggest city in Tunisia), he goes to Belgium as a young man to study drama and film production at the Institut National Superieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) between 1989 and 1972 after which he returns to Tunisia in 1972. For his membership of the GEAST (Groupe d’Etudes et d’Action Socialiste Tunisien) Nouri Bouzid was imprisoned for five years by the Tunisian government. His experience of humiliation and torture in prison has shapen the at that time still young and frail Bouzid and left its marks on his future film work.

In 1986 he produces his first own feature film „L`homme de cendres“ (Man Made of Ash),  which deals with homosexuality. Bouzid has experienced sexual abuse for himself. His film was shown in the official selection in Cannes and received awards at other international festivals outside his own country. In 1989 Nouri Bouzid incorporated his own degrading experiences in prison in the film „Les sabots en or“ („Wooden Shoes Made of Gold“). „Our present and our future are being monopolized by our past. I had been raped, to me this was a shame. By pronouncing it, I transform my shame into dignity“ (taz, 10.9.2004). According to Bouzid’s conviction people should never shrink back from making public of an injustice done to them; because only when you touch on a sore point the chance will be given to you to heal the wounds. He calls it „social hypocrisy“ which is characteristic of traditional societies.

In cooperation with other artists Bouzid shows his critical position towards the American gulf-war in a short-film of 1990.

In 1992 he again dedicated himself to a greater project. He dealt with the problem of sex tourism in his film „Bezness“. The title is a parody of the English word „business“. Tourism is one of the main sources of income of the Tunisian state. First, the government withdrew its subvention and allowance for filming in the capital. Only when the film is acknowledged worldwide it is shown on Tunisian television.

This is mainly Bouzid’s main criticism, that in modern societies people and ideals are being judged only according to materialistic standards. Bouzid is mainly interested in people’s feelings and emotions, in people who have been injured, because they are torn between the apparently secure coordinates of their sociocultural establishment and the slackening of Western modernism. Tunisia has one of the most modern legislations in the Islamic world. Yet, progressive laws and social reality are poles apart. The traditional feudal structures are hard to break. Bouzid regards the materialistic interest of the middle class as one reason for the existence of this gap, since the middle class holds on to the status quo, because it has a good life with the way it is.

In his last film „Making of“ (Arabic „Akhir film“, which means = „The Last Film“), which was awarded first prize on the film festival of Carthage in 2006, Bouzid concerns himself with the question of why young men are willing to take their lives in a suicide bombing. In an interview with Larissa Bender he speaks of the forlornness of Arab youth on the spiritual level and their „desperation with regard to economy“. This prepares the ground for fundamental Islam, which knows how to use the interior gagging in rigid social structures and the exterior rage against the presumptuousness of Western policy in their region. „It becomes obvious in this film who has the responsibility… We are all responsible: the police is responsible, the absence of freedom is responsible, the family structure, the failure of education system… we all have prepared the young man and Islamists have plucked him.“

Nouri Bouzid will personally travel from Tunisia to receive the award on 30th November 2007 at 5 p.m. in the Goethe Institute, Neue Schönhauser Straße 20, in Berlin-Mitte (S-Bahn Hackescher Markt, U-Bahn Weinmeisterstr.). 

A reception with tea and bakhlava will conclude the celebrations and leave room for personal discussion.

Short biography of the prize winner                      

Short biographies of members of the jury

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Ibn Rushd Prizes                                                    

Ibn Rushd website                                                      

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