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DDocumentary Competition

Cursed be the Phosphate

Cursed be the Phosphate

Original Title: Yel'an Bu Al-phosphate
Director: Sami Tlili
Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates | Arabic
2012 | 84min. | Colour
Subtitles: English
Format: HDCAM
12+
“Cursed be the phosphate that we dig out and goes to others.' These words echoed throughout the Gafsa mining basin in 2008 and dialled into the discontent festering in Tunisia. Documentarian Sami Tlili makes a compelling case that the 2011 revolution – which would succeed in removing President Ben Ali from power and quickly spark what became known as the Arab Spring – first happened here, three years earlier, when impoverished citizens banded together in civil dissent.

Any resident of Gafsa will tell you that their life is simply absurd: they toil under gruelling conditions and endure unforgiving ecological and health consequences to produce phosphate, and yet are told they are not entitled to any advantages of their labour. The phosphate is a cursed wealth for a region where miners must strike for basic rights, poverty only gets worse and turmoil lingers in the air. Socially fractured from the larger populace, its people are either forgotten or horribly caricatured as peasants and country bumpkins across popular national media. Naturally they were neglected by Ben Ali’s regime.

Beginning in January 2008, the teachers, the unemployed and the youth living in despair led six months of riots in the Gafsa mining basin. This unprecedented uprising became modern Tunisia’s first popular movement and brought fresh attention to the dusty and mountainous southwest. The protest was brutally suppressed by the government, but its spirit survived to give birth to the Tunisian revolution on January 14, 2011. More than four years have now passed since the initial revolt and Gafsa’s people are again out of sight and forgotten. All that remains are shattered lives quietly holding onto pride and trying to carry on with dignity.

- Mohammad Khawaja

Director,  Sami Tlili

Director,  Sami Tlili

Sami Tlili was born in Kairouan, Tunisia. A university lecturer in Sousse, he teaches art history, francophone literature and African cinema. Tlili is a former active member of the cine-clubs in the Tunisian Federation of Amateur Filmmakers (FTCA). He has directed three short films selected and awarded in several international independent festivals. Cursed Be the Phosphate is his first featurelength documentary.

Cast and Crew

Director
Sami Tlili
Cast
Adnene Hajji, Bechir Laabidi, Leila Khaled Laabidi, Adel Jayar, Moudhaffer Laabidi, Haroun Hleimi
Production Company
Cinetelefilms, Nomadis Images
Music
Rabiaa Bouhrizi, Myriam Laabidi
Producer
Habib Attia, Dora Bouchoucha
Screenwriter
Sami Tlili
Editor
Achraf Amri, Anis Hammami
Cinematographer
Hatem Nechi, Hazem Berrabah, Adonis Nadhem Romdhane
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