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Local Tunisian Film Festival launches this week

January 9, 2012 |  3:54 pm

It has been a year since revolution in Tunisia led to the fall of the country's autocratic regime.  

The uprising, which led to democratic elections, set off similar revolutions in other Arab countries and may even have helped inspire the Occupy movement, had another benefit, said Bechir Blagui, a Tunisian activist: It introduced the nation to the rest of the world. 

Now a group of Tunisians in Los Angeles is hoping to capitalize on that exposure and acquaint Americans with their country and its culture by launching the Tunisian Film Festival in Hollywood.

"I think [in] 2012, we're going to make it a year where we establish ourselves," said Blagui, one of the film festival organizers and founder of Free Tunisia, a Los Angeles-based group. 

The festival, which begins Tuesday and runs for three nights at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood, will show eight films shot before, during and after the revolution. 

Organizers said some of the films and documentaries being shown would have been censored under the regime of former President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, who fled the country Jan. 14, 2011.

"Cinema is all about free speech, and Free Tunisia is all about free speech," Blagui said. 

In the last year, there has been a five- or sixfold increase in the number of films produced in Tunisia, said Dhia Rabiai, general manager of the film festival. 

"Movies are the ambassadors of a culture,” Rabiai said.

-- Raja Abdulrahim