The Legacy of a Martyr

Paige Donnelly

Rouge Parole
Directed and written by Elyes Baccar
Cinema Guild, 2011, 94 minutes

.The late Mohamed Bouazizi was a butterfly for Tunisia. In life, he went unnoticed by society’s radar. But in death, his small wings blew tremors throughout the Arab world; his self-immolation on December 17, 2010 was seismic for the region. His death epitomizes the butterfly effect.

Bouazizi may have been the first martyr of the Arab Spring, but he was not the last. Elyes Baccar pays homage to the Bouazizi spirit in all Tunisians with his film “Rouge Parole,” a documentary about the Tunisian Revolution. He diversifies Bouazizi’s story, applying it to the mother who has lost her son, to the rap artist who protests the regime, to the budding filmmaker who records the revolution, to the fisherman who finds freedom in the sea but loves his homeland.

In the beginning, Baccar orients the viewer to Bouazizi’s tombstone. The camera gives more detail to the setting as it zooms out to the graveyard, and then out further to the capital, Tunis. This backdrop is poignantly juxtaposed against the echoing voice of Ben Ali, whose words ignore grievances of the poor and unemployed.

Baccar spans the entire country. He documents stories from the Kerkehnah Islands, Redayef, Kasserine, and Thala. As a good documentary should be, the filming is unobtrusive. It even captures the amateur cinematographers: the young people who are filming the spectacle with mobile phones.

In a beautiful circle, one of Baccar’s closing images is the funeral of Wajdi Essaihi, the last martyr of the Tunisian Revolution. Here lies the tragedy of the movement: the young lives lost. A tragedy indeed, but the lost youth are also the movement’s awakening. A hopeful song and gathering follows the funeral scene. It describes Tunisia as one — without divide — under their red flag. Together, the people feel pain; together, they feel the flutter of butterfly wings. “Rouge Parole” is integral film for those trying to understand the spontaneity and collective nature of the revolution.

This review appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 17, no. 64

© Copyright 2012  AL JADID MAGAZINE

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