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On woman and society

"Fatma", fetched Khaled Ghorbal the Rajatha Chakoram Award for the Best Director at the Seventh International Film Festival of Kerala held in Thiruvananthapuram recently. He talks to PRAKASAM K. UNNI about the film, Tunisian women and society.

KHALED GHORBAL loves listening to women. Their concerns are his too. "Fatma", his first feature film, was born of this concern.

"Fatma" fetched Khaled Ghorbal, who is from Tunisia, the Rajatha Chakoram Award for the Best Director at the Seventh International Film Festival of Kerala held in Thiruvananthapuram recently. It also made him richer by Rs. 3 lakhs.

The film, which is also scripted by Ghorbal, is about a young woman who is raped at a tender age and takes to education as a means of emancipation.

But she succumbs to the pressure of tradition by going in for a surgery to fake virginity, before her marriage.

"I came to know from friends in clinics that many women in my country who try to live liberated lifestyles resort to surgery at the time of marriage. I couldn't believe it at first", Ghorbal says. "It made me think about what a woman's body means to her, what it means to a man and to the relationship between them, and what it means to society. I found it too complicated and have tried to express it through the film."

He also claims to have exposed, in "Fatma", the contradictions prevalent in Tunisia. "I see a lot of hypocrisy in my country at all levels, personal, political, social and economic. There is a yawning gap between what we see ourselves as and what we are in reality".

And, he feels that the women are at the receiving end of this hypocrisy. "Though Tunisia's Constitution guarantees equal status to women, the patriarchal society there allows them only a subordinate role. So it is more difficult to be a woman than a man. Women pay a much higher price for the hypocrisy now practised in my country." But, Ghorbal's concerns are not confined to women. Asked if he would explore women's issues in his future films he says, "Making films about women is not a business for me. I am moved by the sufferings of not just women, but of men and children too."

Ghorbal says he has not been influenced by any filmmaker in particular. "I do not analyse the movies I see. But every film I have seen has left a mark on me. I grew up with the idea that when we create something we create it the way we want and the way we are. So I have not followed any director in particular," he explains.

Asked about the state of film industry in Tunisia, Ghorbal smiles as he says, "Only a couple of films are made in an year. That should speak for itself." Tunisia has a population of a little less than a crore.

This filmmaker, who is also an actor, has learnt theatre extensively in Tunisia and France. "Fatma" was screened at Cannes last year.

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