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‘L’île aux enchères’ : Island set for auction

‘L’île aux enchères’ (island for auction) is an amateur documentary that has taken on the task of documenting the inhabitants of Kerkennah, an island in Tunisia, in their fight against oil companies, including the multinational oil company, Petrofac. Screened on the last day of the L’ère Documentaire cycle which took place at the Tunisian Cinematheque.
The director, Majdi Kaaniche, who originates from the island and is well-informed about the matter, took the responsibility to grant his people the opportunity to express their rage. The short amateur film has achieved double honors, for best filmmaker at the International Amateur Film Festival of Kelibia in 2016, and for the prize of the ‘Instance Nationale de Lutte Contre la Corruption’(INLUCC) in 2017, which is basically the national anti-corruption authority in Tunisia.
The documentary depicts the misery of the island and its inhabitants, one caused by the oil companies. Especially the fishermen who deplore the pollution that has poisoned the sea and sunk its black, slimy claws into its creatures.
On the other hand, other inhabitants protest the lack of economic, health, and infrastructure development due to government neglect and oil-fueled corruption. They actively demand, through demonstrations and protests, the generation of new employment openings in order to expand the workforce of the region and engage its youth.
The 12-minute documentary follows some of the protestors who have been deeply affected by the police. Those who were trying to control the riots and disperse crowds through the use of tear gas as well as systematic violence, leaving some of them wounded and even paralyzed. Under such circumstances, the inhabitants find themselves trapped between a contaminating company and a cruel ruler.
In an attempt to relate to the title, there has been a mention of bribery throughout the film. As multiple interviewees claimed that 95% of the inhabitants have been paid to leave the island, compelling to the company’s obvious policy.
The camera lingers on their faces etched with love, a love passed down through generations for the island, now shaded by the quiet pride of defending their homeland and the mothers’ pain of their children unjustly jailed. One can sense this even with the neutrality of the documentary that Kaanich succeeds in transmitting.
The director has also succeeded in using various framing techniques, shuttling between the demonstrations and the interviews. He made incredible shots of the maritime scenery, which represents a divine nature, both gentle and fierce, being compromised by the oil barons’ interests.