The screening in Tunisia of a French film dealing with Jewish life in Nazi-occupied France has raised a storm of criticism. "Un Secret" ("A Secret"), directed by the French-Jewish director Claude Miller and starring the popular French-Jewish singer Patrick Bruel, was shown at the opening of the 15th annual Festival of European Cinema in Tunis.
Filmgoers Walk Out on Film that is "Too Favorable to the Jews"
Tunisian filmgoers walked out 30 minutes into the film "A Secret," which deals with a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied France, claiming that it was "too favorable to the Jews." Filmgoers told aljazeera.net, the website of the Al-Jazeera satellite TV station, that they wondered why Europe was so favorable to the Jews, and France in particular, whose president they described as the "pro-Jewish Sarkozy."
The Tunisian organizer of the festival, Ibrahim Al-Latif, blamed the European delegation, which was responsible for the choice of films. One young filmgoer told aljazeera.net that the decision to screen "A Secret" led some people "to feel that the European delegation, which oversees the festival, is under Jewish control."[i]
Al-Sabah: Opening with the Film Was Not Appropriate Given the Criminal Siege on Gaza
An article by Muhsin Al-Zaghlawi in the mainstream Tunisian Al-Sabah daily opined that "not only was the timing of the opening of the festival wrong, as it came together with the tightening of the criminal Israeli siege on Gaza and the unprecedented worsening of Palestinian suffering, but also the opening film chosen by the organizers… was not appropriate in the view of many observers…
"A large number of the Tunisian public present at the opening were surprised by the events [related in] the film, and its melodramatic narrative, which emphasized the tragic aspect of these events. The film tried to show the Jews as though they were the only people in history who have been subjected to injustice and against whom were committed crimes and massacres. Thus some of them decided to walk out of the film and leave the area, in plain view of the guests and the organizers…
"[This was an act of] protest… against the Tunisian and European panel who organized the festival, who did not make a good choice – if we are to assume that their intentions were good – and shocked the festival's public, right at the opening, with a politicized film that, regardless of its content, does damage to the festival's orientation, and comes close to removing it from its general cultural-artistic framework and brings it into a maze of [political] instrumentalism that is far from innocent.
"The oppressive Israeli siege underway these days against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is an [ominous] herald of a humanitarian disaster, is an event that must necessarily cast a shadow on any festival – cultural, intellectual, or other – taking place anywhere. The festival's organizers… should have taken this into account, and not given a film dealing with the Jews' historical tragedy in the Holocaust the honor of opening the festival… especially since the criminal Israeli siege against the Gaza Strip is now at its ugliest and most inhumane."[ii]
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Opposition Paper: The Zionist Entity Exploits Any Occasion to Remind the World of the Holocaust
A similar article appeared on November 28, 2008, in Al-Watan, the official organ of the opposition Unionist Democratic Union party. The article, by Noureddine El-Mbarki, read: "I don't know whether this was just a coincidence, or whether this was planned intentionally. I don't want to make gratuitous accusations against anyone. But what occurred on Thursday, November 20, at the Coliseum Auditorium, makes me wonder whether the organizers of the 15th Festival of European Cinema were aware of what was going on at the opening.
"Over the course of the last week the siege on Gaza reached dangerous levels; electric light to residents and to medical and economic institutions is cut off, and the bakeries have closed their doors. Young children and the elderly struggle with death in the hospitals because of the lack of medicines and the machines that are shut down. Families cannot find anything to allay their hunger, and some bakeries have been forced to use animal fodder for making bread. This is a tragic and inhuman situation caused by the Zionist entity's blockade on the border crossings.
"In these days, when voices have risen to break the siege on Gaza, the 15th annual European film festival in Tunis opens with a film that 'deals with… the tragic situation of the Jews in the Second World War, through [the lives of] Jewish families in France, and [deals with] the victims of the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis…'
"It is well known that the Zionist entity and the Jewish lobbies, which are spread throughout the entire world, always try to exploit any occasion and any stage, no matter how trivial, to 'remind' [the world] of the oppression suffered by the Jews, especially during the Second World War at the hands of the Nazis, in an attempt to cover up the crimes that the Zionist entity is perpetrating in the occupied Palestinian lands. These are crimes that destroy everything: forests of olive trees, houses, the tyrannical siege [whose victims reach] the point of death, the air raids, the assassinations, and so on.
"What is being perpetrated in Gaza is a true crime by any measure or standard, but nonetheless the world looks on and 'monitors' [the situation]. And in Tunisia, with the [full] knowledge of the Ministry of Culture, a film is being shown about the oppression of the Jews told through 'the story of a child in search of his identity' – whereas the children of Gaza, because of the siege, can't find milk or anything to allay their hunger…"[iii]
Positive Reviews in the Tunisian French-Language Press
In contrast, the Tunisian French-language press had only praise for the film, and did not so much as mention any political implications of its screening at the festival. One review in Le Temps daily referred to the film's "tortured tenderness and delicacy,"[iv] and another said that it was a film characterized by "nuance, elegance, and finesse. And nonetheless, underneath, there lies a terrible passion, like a volcano boiling in the strata, unnoticed, until it explodes out into the open…"[v]
Also, the official Agence Tunis Afrique Presse noted the director's personal connection to the film's plot: "Miller confronts the painful memories of the occupation and the concentration camps, from which several members of his family never returned."[vi]
[iv] Le Temps (Tunisia), November 20, 2008.
[v] Le Temps (Tunisia), November 22, 2008. The difference between the treatment of the issue in Al-Sabah and in Le Temps is particularly noteworthy given that the two papers belong to the same publisher.