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March 19-20, 2004  

Moufida Tlatli: The Season of Women

The Harvard Film Archive is honored to welcome Moufida Tlatli, this year’s recipient of the seventh annual Genevieve McMillan and Reba Stewart Fellowship for Distinguished Filmmaking. Tunisian-born and Paris-trained Tlatli was the Middle East’s top film editor for two decades before directing her striking debut feature, The Silences of the Palace. The film was selected for the Directors Fortnight at Cannes in 1994, where it received Special Mention for the Camera d’Or award and went on to win the International Critics’ Award at Toronto and to earn Tlatli the Best Director citation at the All African Film Awards in 1995. Tlatli has continued both her feature filmmaking and her advocacy for the continued importance of an emerging feminist perspective within the Arab world.

This program is jointly sponsored by the Film Study Center at Harvard. Special thanks are offered to this year’s selection committee members Lucien Taylor, Steve Caton, Despina Kakoudaki, and Verena Conley.


Director Moufida Tlatli in Person
March 19 (Friday) 7 pm

The Season of Men (La Saison des hommes)

Directed by Moufida Tlatli
Tunisia/France, 2000, color, 124 min.
With Rabia Ben Abdallah, Sabah Bouzouita, Ghania Benali
Arabic and French with English subtitles

The Season Of Men is set on the island of Djerba, where women wait eleven months of the year for their trader husbands to return from the mainland. The annual “season of men,” in which the males return and try desperately to conceive children with these alienated, abandoned wives, becomes a source of increasing tension and sexual dysfunction. It is a story of loneliness, frustration, and desperation on an island that is a virtual prison for the women. Tlatli’s film shows that the absence of men does not give the women any respite from oppression. As in her debut, Tlatli conveys all of this through minute glances and gestures, effortlessly cutting across past and present, cause and effect.

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Director Moufida Tlatli in Person
March 20 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Silences of the Palace

Directed by Moufida Tlatli
Tunisia/France, 1994, color, 127 min.
With Amel Hedhili, Hend Sabri, Najia Ouerghi
Arabic and French with English subtitles

Distilled from the director’s own family tragedy, The Silences of the Palace, set in the 1950s, is a complex work that frames the Tunisian struggle for national independence within the parallel plight of women in the household of a governing prince. Tlatli’s microcosm of representsliberation is situated in the coming-of-age story of Alia, the illegitimate daughter of a palace servant who attempts to come to terms with her feudal upbringing at a time of anti-colonial liberation politics. With her signature attention to the minutiae of lived experience, Tlatli subtly captures Alia’s struggles in becoming a woman: the unfamiliar new sexuality, her rebellious refusal to submit to the degradation her mother's generation endured. Just as the grown-up Alia remains at the film’s end haunted by her childhood, the newly independent Tunisia is not that different from the old.

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