Liverpool Arab Arts Festival and The Bluecoat are delighted to host the UK premiere of the groundbreaking film Papa Hedi – an arts documentary about a woman’s journey to find her Grandfather, bringing a family together across two cultures in a modern world. The film was first screened in 2012 at California’s Arab Film Festival and now it is to make its UK premiere in Liverpool on June 16 before being screened at the London Shubbak Festival on 30 June.
Filmmaker Claire Belhassine, whose journey the film describes and who also directed the film, was in her late 20s when she discovered that her grandfather was one of the most significant Arabic composers of the 20th century. Being raised in a middle-class British environment and having little exposure to her Tunisian roots, Claire was unaware that Hedi Jouini’s songs are used as the theme tune for a popular Tunisian soap opera, are the holding music for Tunisia’s leading mobile network and are still sung by 5-years-old street kids, as well as the older generation.
Claire’s documentary looks at the subject of her grandfather’s enormous contribution to Tunisian cultural life. Dubbed the Frank Sinatra of Tunisia, if not the Arab World, he toured the world. His songs are known from Lebanon to Morocco, street kids sing them, and they have been covered by international popstars like Ishtar.
But until now, his story has gone largely untold.
It is an amazing story of love and family, celebrity and music in Tunisia, filmed before the Jasmine Revolution.
Unravelling stories of her own and her family’s past, Claire’s journey exposes a myriad of private and public issues, such as gender roles, sibling rivalry, Tunisia’s independence from French rule, post-colonial search for identity, inheritance and legacy, empowered women, diaspora, jealousy, envy, compassion and hope.
Taking her to three continents this challenging and rewarding journey has brought Claire not only closer to her cultural roots and her family, but it has also sparked a meaningful discourse about personal identity, legacy and socio-ethnic displacement in a world that is becoming a heterogeneous mass of post-modern hybridity.
Belhassine says: “Hedi is still adored by his native Tunisians and throughout the Arab Diaspora but his children no longer talk to each other. In my film Papa Hedi’s story is told through a family separated across continents, fighting over royalties, competing to define a legacy.
“The discovery of my grandfather’s enormous fame made me begin to ask some searching questions about my family. The more I probed the more fascinating the search became, inside a dysfunctional family and a culture that is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
My intention is to tell this very personal story of a Tunisian family through my Anglocised eyes about a prominent figure in the Arab world.”
Papa Hedi is a family drama which offers insight into a Tunisian culture and discovery for those not familiar with Arab pop music, of some of their best loved classics.
UK premiere screening of Papa Hedi
Sunday 16 June, 4pm
The Bluecoat, School Lane, Liverpool City Centre
Tickets £5 from The Bluecoat box office in person or on 0151 702 5324