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In 2010, after the state crisis in Ivory Coast, Hervé decides to leave his country.
Once he arrives in Tunisia, he must face a reality he never imagined and dreaming of a better life becomes his daily challenge.
Hamza Ben SlamaWriter
Massa Blamassi TouréKey Cast
Project Type:Documentary, Short
Runtime:29 minutes 55 seconds
Completion Date:September 1, 2021
Production Budget:15,000 USD
Country of Origin:Tunisia
Country of Filming:Tunisia
JCC Carthage Film FestivalTunis
November 1, 2021
Official Selection Short Film Documentary
Maher Hasnaoui is a Tunisian director, born in 1990 in Tunisia. He graduated from the “Higher Institute of Arts and Multimedia of Manouba” in production and assistant directing.
He has worked in the film industry since 2015 as an assistant to several directors. His graduation film "KHALÄA" has been recognised in film festivals with a world premiere at Inter film Berlin 2016.
It was selected by the Arcacinemagiovani Jury at the 71st edition of La Mostra in Venice.
In 2021, he released a new short documentary film that focuses on the difficulties of sub-Saharans in Tunisia and it is now in the distribution phase.
Maher is currently developing his next short film "Amal".
The immigration most put forth on media is that of Southern countries to Western ones. In Tunisia, for as long as I can remember, immigration to Europe whether legal, illegal, chosen… was always on the news.
But yet, in recent years, there has been a remarkably-large migratory flux within the margins of the South. Young sub-Saharans from modest families have, in fact, been heading toward the Maghreb to study; others have, simply, chosen Tunisia as a stepping stone to Europe.
Being thoroughly interested in the issue of immigration, and from what I have experienced and observed, I found that the vision above can, sometimes, be too schematic.
Ironically, a child obtaining the Baccalaureate degree generally marks the beginning of a long struggle for their families, in sub-Saharan Africa.
The most privileged of these young people will be able to carry on their studies in Western universities. If they get to continue their studies at all, the least advantaged will settle for a local university where education is of poor-quality, and diplomas not recognized abroad.
Why did these young people choose Tunisia, as a destination, for their academic purposes?
One can wonder if they’ve made the right decision when they’ve chosen Tunisia.
Since my childhood, I have been confronted with situations where Sub-Saharans were involved. The dynamic of events, in these situations, has always intrigued me. I remember, for instance, the day when, on my way to school, I witnessed a scene in the metro. A young sub-Saharan man gave up his seat to an older lady. The latter looked him up and down in disdain, and moved a few meters away mumbling words that can only be interpreted as insults. Such a happening left other passengers confounded. The gentleman, embarrassed, left the wagon.
Over the years, I have known Sub-Saharan students very well and have become aware of probably all of the problems they have to face, such as over-priced rent and unfair terms to get a lease. Not to mention the daily difficulties, in all public spaces, that range from encounters with the neighborhood grocer, to the taxi driver, and the teachers who call them "our African guests".
I have conducted several interviews with men and women from sub-Saharan Africa. What they taught me about themselves, during these interviews, was to me, a revelation; shocking and unexpected.
But I also understood, conversing with some of them, the extent to which they hid their disarray, the discomfort they feel, and the pain they go through facing racist statements and acts coming from a mass of people judging them because of their skin color and origins.
During my master’s studies, I worked night shifts as a waiter in restaurant. This is where it all started.
After a few months, the owner hired a team of reinforcement for the kitchen, including Hervé and other sub-Saharans, with whom we formed a group of different nationalities.
Our Sub-Saharans colleagues were rather shy and withdrawn. At first, there was a kind of barrier between us, a certain discomfort that disappeared with time and little by little we got closer to each other. It was my first opportunity to work with sub-Saharans living in Tunis. Although, at first, communication was a little difficult; we, eventually, won their trust and we came to know their experience living in Tunisia.
Even though their job as employees in a catering establishment is, in itself, lawful, the professional situation of these sub-Saharans remained illegal given the constraints imposed by Tunisian law, mainly relating to the status of the employee, or even their nationality.
My documentary will not focus on migrants who work illegally, but will rather highlight the abuse and the exploitation they suffer in Tunisia, in silence.
Hervé, the main character of my documentary, is part of the group of sub-Saharans with whom I have been working in the restaurant; a 32-year-old Ivorian, from a large, modest family of eight children, a stay-at-home mom, and a father. The latter is a nurse, who also took care of the harvest of his fields of wheat.
The Ivorian crisis of 2010-2011 has severely impoverished Hervé’s family. The country was on the verge of a civil war. A small project of cacao exportation, in which Hervé had invested a good sum of money, and on which he counted a great deal, was aborted. His father lost his fields of wheat, as well, which were his main source of revenue.
Holder of a diploma in stock management, practically valueless in the labor market, Hervé came to Tunisia in 2012 with the aim of continuing his studies in computer management and of pursuing his dream of starting his own business there; a dream that has, unfortunately, been dispelled. It was only after four months that he interrupted his studies, because he lacked the financial means.
Thus, Hervé started to look for a job that would satisfy his vital needs and allow him to pay his school fees, in a country where the high rate of unemployment continues to increase. From there, the young Ivorian embarked on an adventure full of obstacles and disappointments.
First, he worked as a full-time gardener with a family in La Soukra for a year and a half, a family to which Hervé says he is grateful, despite the salary that did not live up to his hopes, or rather his needs.
He, then, found another job in a material-making company, a job on which he counted on to make his residential status legal under the Tunisian law. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for the young sub-Saharan. Three months after his hiring, the company went bankrupt, and Hervé found himself, again, unemployed; and remained undocumented.
Later, Hervé got back to gardening, but this time, only as a part-time employee. In the meantime, he was contributing to a multicultural dance show, in one of the busiest shopping centers in Tunis, on the occasion of the CAN 2015 (African Football Cup). It was an opportunity for him to exhibit and make known part of his sub-Saharan culture, which, in fact, was a burst of hope and pleasure in the darkness and bitterness of his adventure.
Following that, a friend of Hervé, a sub-Saharan lady, contacted him to suggest he works as a dish washer in a restaurant in La Goulette. He agreed.
A few weeks later, Hervé went to the Ivorian embassy to renew his passport. On his way to his home, near a popular Souk in Ariana (Souk El Asr), Hervé was beaten by two bandits who stole his bag containing his laptop and his ID. This happened in broad daylight, in public, but without the slightest intervention of the people who witnessed the scene. Only an old man gave a hand to Hervé, proposing to accompany him to the nearest police station in order to make a complaint. He even expressed his willingness to give his testimony.
Alas! His status his illegal situation as a foreigner dissuaded Hervé from filing a complaint, which amplified his sorrow.
What incited me to choose Hervé as the main character of my documentary is this dilemma he goes through, on the daily, between his obligations to hide and to live clandestinely from one side, and his desire to be himself and to promote his culture and roots, of which he is so proud, from the other.
My character’s refusal to surrender and his mixture of feelings have impressed me despite all the difficulties we have encountered on the level of integration.
Long before my trips to Europe, since my childhood, I had known the colors of the flag of the European Union and its hymn. I must admit that I was ashamed to discover, only after having known these students, that the African Union had a flag and a hymn. The peoples have demonstrated their power in their union; of which the examples are the European Union and the United States of America. Will the fight against racism be achieved through the union of African peoples? These students never miss the opportunity to raise these issues.
In this opening project, beyond clichés, a question prevails. Does the origin of these young people’s immigration to the North lie in our own unworthiness of trust?
This documentary will be dedicated to the soul of a Malian director friend "LORENZO" who died during the crash of a plane on July 24, 2014, in central Mali. Lorenzo was with us, a few days before his death, for the filming of his documentary on sub-Saharan students and similar organizations that take care of them in Tunis. This documentary can be considered as a continuity to his work.