The first Arabic film in the running for the Golden Bear in 20 years, Inhebbek Hedi tells the modest story of 25-year-old Hedi (Majd Mastoura) who has been forced by his mother into an arranged marriage. His fate is sealed; he will live with his wife in his overbearing mother’s house, working as a car salesman for the rest of his days. With the arranged wedding looming over his head, Hedi’s world is turned upside down when he meets a charming, self-ruling woman, Rim (Rym Ben Massaoud) on a business trip.
The film is co-produced by the Dardennes brothers and their brand of stripped-down realism has definitely made a mark on Ben Attia; Inhebbek Hedi’s Tunisia is a country undergoing a transition. Hedi spends his time driving from town to town, passing industrial estates and construction sites. The resort where the lovers meet seems like an oasis, but is also tarnished by the German tourists who keep it afloat. The chemistry between the couple is so natural that Hedi’s transformation is genuinely poignant. He is tightly-wound and laconic until he meets Rim, who allows him to relax and provides an escape from the conventions imposed on him. The dialogue becomes increasingly more explosive as the characters start to reveal their true feelings; it is a treat to watch them play off one another.
Ostensibly, Inhebbek Hedi is a family drama about a young man finally reaching out for what he wants and becoming independent. However, Hedi’s anxieties represent a larger social fear of change, and even though his family are forcing him into marriage, they themselves seem to be only carrying on tradition for lack of a better plan. The film is set in a post-Arab Spring Tunisia, after the country has opened itself up to the world and the future. However, such a tumultuous social upheaval does not change things overnight, and the characters find themselves trapped between the predictable-but-empty safety of tradition of the past and the great unknown of the future.
Inhebbek Hedi does not yet have a UK release date.
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