Hedi aka Inhebek Hedi, written and directed by Mohamed Ben Attia
It is unfortunate that this excellent drama is not coming to a cinema near you- alas neither soon, nor later- but perhaps you can see it on Netflix or HBO, where we had the chance to watch it, on one of their Art Film channels, Cinemax 2.
This feature is Tunisian and the audience will become more familiar with issues from this wonderful country, the one that has opened the way for the Arab Spring, which unfortunately has had little success, except perhaps for the same Tunisia, where progress has been made.
It is not all Wine and Roses, as we learn from the characters in the film and if we watch the news, where we see that this land has problems, but it is nevertheless better positioned than Egypt- with its ex-military strongman applying tactics that recall Mubarak and dictatorships- and other Arab countries where populations have revolted but with little success.
For all the problems experienced by people in Tunisia, it is clear that this is not Saudi Arabia either- where women have not been allowed to drive, until very recently, men and women could not get to a cinema, up to the opening of the first cinemas a few days ago, and where there are still so many restrictions in effect, from the burqa to the sharia law with its harsh, medieval provisions.
Majd Mastoura portrays Hedi with exceptional talent.
The hero is a young man who faces a conundrum: he has to keep with the traditions and marry the woman that the family chooses for him, or he will be free to make his own choice and live his life?
He is on more pressure when the situation at work- and in the country in general is deteriorating- with superiors telling employees to get on the road and try to bring in more sales.
This is not exactly Blake aka stupendous Alec Baldwin from the archetypal Glengarry Glen Ross telling salesmen that they have to
“ABC. "A", always. "B", be. "C", closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Always be closing.
Blake: ABC. 'A', always. 'B', be. 'C', closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Always be closing.”
Nevertheless, Hedi has to travel, knock on doors, wait at the gates of various enterprises and hear the repeated mantra: “business in not good now and we will buy no more cars in the near future”.
Over and over, the hero is refused, told to leave his business card for the future, but there are grim prospects everywhere, in dialogues the Tourism business is mentioned, which has been dramatically affected and it used to contribute such an important share to the national economy.
The negative perspective, the gloomy outlook is changed when the protagonist sees a woman he likes, although the start is awkward, Hedi lies and says something strange to the woman.
He later approaches her and explains that the real reason why he was running was different and in fact, his mother has not broken her hip, it was just his boss from Peugeot calling him…
Another night, the attractive, friendly and rather liberal for the Arab world- although not for Tunisia and definitely in trouble in places like Saudi Arabia, where she would be killed for her attire, “misbehavior and all”- woman called Rym is going out to the beach and the hero comes along.
In the water, they play games and it is evident that they are infatuated with each other and they get ever closer, in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, in the dark of the night, with the lights of the shore glimmering in the distance.
As the hero gets ever closer to Rym, he confesses that he is about to get married, to the chagrin of the woman who thought her partner is free…not entangled in such a strong bond.
But the protagonist is actually about to get married because his family- his mother in particular- wants this and his heart is not into it, in fact he is in love with Rym and wants to be with her.
She is a dancer and offers performances, with her colleagues, to the dwindling numbers of foreign tourists who come for the lovely beaches, the inexpensive packages offered by Tunisia.
Rym will soon travel to France and Hedi decides he will travel there with her, in spite of the obstacles, of having to sneak in to get his passport and whatever luggage he can get, discussing this with his lover.
She says they would stop on the way to the airport and get his papers and things, but he prefers to get there later at night to avoid confrontation with his mother and the rest of the family.
Without mentioning the details, it needs to be said that this is very emotional and the hearts of the protagonists are broken, it is difficult- next to impossible. – To decide where to inflict the pain- mother or lover?
It is not the terrible option offered in Sophie’s Choice, but Hedi has to inflict pain and he will suffer no matter what the choice is.