In the Land of Tararanni, Dir. Férid Boughedir, Hamouda Ben Halima and Hédi Ben Khalifa, Tunisia, 1973, 80 mins, Arabic with English subtitles
No other Tunisian book has been as popular and influential as Ali Douagi’s short story collection Sahirtu Minhu al-Layali (Sleepless Nights), published posthumously in 1969. Widely regarded as the father of the Tunisian short story and the nation’s greatest satirist, Douagi captured the zeitgeist of the pre-independence period with a smartness and wit that endures.
This anthology film – directed by Férid Boughedir, Hamouda Ben Halima and Hédi Ben Khalifa – comprises three stories set in the 1930s. In ‘The Lamppost’, a hairdresser meets a mysterious veiled stranger alone under a street lamp; in ‘The Visit’, an unhappy wife complains to her mother about mistreatment by her habitually drunk husband; and in ‘Picnic’, a man shares anecdotes from his rocky marriage over a lunch with a friend.
Rarely seen outside Tunisia, In the Land of Tararanni is among the handful of Tunisian literary adaptations made at the first creative peak of Tunisian cinema; an analytical look at a dysfunctional society that superbly balances bitterness and ire with charm and humour.