A Letter to Mohamed

Christine Moderbacher
35 minutes


“Free since January 14, 2011”—that’s what it says on the T-shirts that the people proudly wore for a while in Tunisia. It was on this day that despot Ben Ali left the country and a new history of freedom began, from which Christine Moderbacher takes random samples in her documentary film A Letter to Mohamed. For example, there are the children who play in the ruins of a building on the wall of which someone has sprayed a polemic statement: “Stealing from the people to build such an ugly shack.” Under Ben Ali, a small elite brazenly became rich at the cost of the people, now there is hope for freedom, democracy, justice, and (this aspect, too, plays an important role), the return of tourism. What might freedom look like? It has to be a freedom that doesn’t come from above, like a gift. In 1956 president Bourguiba single-handedly took off women’s veils, as Christine Moderbacher shows with a historical film clip: “What one person gives, another can take,” she says from off camera. A Letter to Mohamed is a cinematic letter to a friend in Belgian, to Mohamed, who left Tunisia. “Fleeing” and “self-immolation” have the same word root in Arabic: fire. Christine Moderbacher thus connects her letter to Mohamed with the name with which the Tunisian revolution began: with Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire. This film takes place against the backdrop of disillusionment, yet in the images is the trace of a fire that can be sparked at any time. (Bert Rebhandl)

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