by Sherif Awad
Férid Boughedir’s Sweet Smell of Spring, the Best Film Winner of Afaq El-Cinema El-Arabia section (Prospects of Arab Cinema) in the latest 38th edition of Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) that took place from 15 till 24 November, reintroduced us again to Sarra Hannachi who is one of the most promising young startettes of Tunisian cinema. Before this film, Hannachi was also the leading actress of both Bidoun 2 screened last year in Alexandria Mediterranean Film Festival (AMFF) and Child of The Sun screened in Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) two years ago. Egypt Today was her on the Red Carpet at the Cairo Opera House
Since her childhood, Sarra Hannachi was fascinated by acting and dancing which drove her to take early theater lessons when she was only sixteen years-old against her mother’s will. “I was supported by my father who gave me some money to enroll into theatrical workshop overseen by Tunisian director Taoufik Jebali”, she said. “In Tunisia, many families were like mine: appreciate arts and cinema but get worried when their daughters want to become professional actresses”.
In 2012, Sara heard that Tunisian director Taieb Louhichi was casting his new film Child of The Sun which marked his comeback behind the camera after many years. Louhichi, who was severely hurt in an accident while attending Abu Dhabi Film Festival as jury president in 2006, was returning as a writer-director although he became confined to a wheelchair. The film plot was inspired by his current condition: it revolved around a crippled writer, played by veteran Tunisian star Hichem Rostom, who lives on his own at a remote villa where suddenly three teens break in. “I played Sonya, one of the three teens in my first role in front of the camera”, remembers Sara. “It was technically difficult for me because it was my first cinematic experience not to mention that Louhichi had assistants to transport his classic style directions to all of us given his health condition”.
Sarra’s following experience came with Jilani Saadi, another Tunisian veteran director who cast her in his short film Bidouneand its extended version Bidoune 2. “Saadi likes to work with his actors on the characters prior to shooting which was very rewarding for me. I played Aida who flees from her family home to look for answers about the meaning of life”.
In Sweet Smell of Spring, Férid Boughedir, winner of the tribute and life achievement award of the 50the anniversary of Carthage Film Festival last October, reflects the so-called Arab spring through the story of Aziz, nicknamed Zizou, a young unemployed graduate who leaves his Saharan village for Tunis to work as installer of satellite dishes on rooftops. One day, while working in Sidi Bou Saïd, he falls madly in love with a girl named Aïcha who is locked up by a mafia group close to the old regime. Henceforward, his dream is to set her free… “It is obvious that Boughedir symbolized the Tunisian people by Zizou and Tunsia by Aïcha”, explains Sarra who acknowledged working with the multi-award winner Boughedir who is funny and down-to-earth on set”. Although some of the Tunisian audience and journalists criticized her for having a partially nude scene, Sarra does not have a problem in doing so for her roles. “I was taught in dancing lessons that my body is an expressive tool and I should not be ashamed of it”, she puts it.
Before arriving to Cairo, Sarra Hannachi was well received in Toronto International Film Festival last September where she presented her new film Foreign Body directed by Raja Amari. The story centers on young Samia, played by Hannachi, who escaped from her radicalistic Tunisian brother to travel in France where she finds works at the house of the elegant Leila (Palestinian-French actress Hiam Abbass) who has sinister plans for her.
Like many Tunisian actress passing through Egypt, Hannachi met many Egyptian filmmakers who expressed their interest to cast her in Egyptian productions for her to follow the footsteps of her compatriots Dorra and Heind Sabry who moved to Cairo. Yet nothing is concrete. “The most important thing is that my mum is now so proud of me”.