Frame to Frame

Rouge Parole Shares the Most Human Side of the Tunisian Revolution

Rouge Parole is a vivid dose of cinematic realism depicting the Tunisian Revolution.

When Elyes Baccar began filming uprisings in his home country of Tunisia at the end of 2010, there wasn’t a plan of what his feature documentary would become. With a filmmaker’s intuition he just captured the energy, knowing it would be something big.

“Step by step, the subject came up. While everyone was filming with small cameras and bringing news, I was thinking this agora, the old Greek term meaning everyone is gathering and talking, is the most beautiful gift of this revolution,” said Baccar. “This population was kept silenced for more than 20 years, and now everyone is talking.”

The footage took shape as Rouge Parole, a vivid cinema verité that spans the country, capturing the testimony of Tunisians of all classes and opinions, profiling a country in redefinition, after ousting President Ben Ali from power following 23 years of autocratic rule.

While outside news agencies helped spread information from within Tunisia and around the world, Baccar strove to capture the elements overlooked by headline-seeking reporting. Stories of mothers losing their sons, of the elderly clashing with the youth over ideology and a candid moment where Tunisians peer into a bookstore containing formerly-forbidden literature.

“The problem that we are facing with the news is that they were going into sensational things. […] It was the same point of view of the injuries, the sit-ins, but there was no humanity in the treatment,” said Baccar.

Baccar lets his people tell the story of the revolution, and the result is a complicated and intimate account. Feelings of frustration and excitement bubble within the frames, delivering an inspirational message steeped in realism.

“The path was between frustration of what we have lived before and excitement of what we are living now,” said Baccar. “And at the same time there’s fear about what is going to happen next. Not the same fear as with Ben Ali. It is [a question of] how we’re driving this revolution.”

It’s an exciting kind of fear, one that leaves the filmmaker anxious but confident in the newly elected government to take the necessary steps towards a free Tunisia.

As a filmmaker, Baccar’s main aim was to capture the human Tunisia, to remind its citizens what exactly is worth fighting for.

“When you take the role of director, you are not a politician, you need to bring out the lost values, the forgotten values, when everyone is speeding to bring the news. You have to stop a little bit, to go in-depth into the picture and bring the human values, and to share them.

“This is the most important thing, to share today,” he continued. “We in Tunisia have been desolated for so long, and we have to talk about many issues because [they used to be] forbidden. Today, when we say ‘degage’ to Ben Ali, we open a new era. We want to build bridges, communication, and at the same time self-confidence in our values. Ben Ali, like all dictators, tried to erase identities of his people.”

That freedom to speak is central to Rouge Parole, and handling this responsibility will be the true test to the Tunisian people.

“After this revolution, we brought up our values to the nation in order to share them. They are universal, human,” said Baccar. “We want to be respected, but before anything we have to respect ourselves, and that was the first battle against the regime.”

Rouge Parole / Nov. 14 / 7:00 p.m. / Cinema Politica H-110 more info