Several media figures and revolutionaries on Saturday attended the first screening of the documentary "Saleh Ben Youssef... A crime ordered by the state", directed by Eman Ben Hussein and Jamal al-Dallali. Ben Hussein was responsible for the re-enactments, while Dalali filmed the testimonies of politicians who witnessed the relationship between acclaimed Tunisian leader Saleh Ben Youssef and Tunisia's first president Habib Bourguiba.
The documentary, produced by "Horizon Films", chronicles the life of Ben Youssef, including his role in the Tunisian patriotic movement and the establishment of the Free Constitutional Party, until his assassination in Germany in 1961. The film also talks about suspicions linking Bourguiba to the crime, by depicting the testimonies of 16 individuals who supposedly witnessed the events.
Eman Ben Hussein told Arabstoday the re-enactments were essential to give the needed "live" feeling to the documentary, as it the documentary was required to touch viewers.
"The preparations for the scenes took eight days, while the filming took two. The script was based on Bourguiba's admission in the press institute in 1973 that he was behind Ben Youssef's assassination. This admission is the base from which we go on to reveal the details of the crime. I think the weeping of Ben Youssef's widow while watching the documentary was a good sign of success," said Ben Hussein.
For his part, director Dallali said the movie was a trial to re-open the ignored files of Tunisia's history, as the movie documents testimonies about an incident that was tabboo to speak about before.
The young actor Wajdi Qaydi, who played Ben Youssef's role, said the character was not an easy one to portray, as playing the role of such a historical figure puts a load of responsibility on the actor's shoulders.
"Playing this role required deep research and exceptional acting talent. I think this movie will highlight an oft-overlooked period of Tunisia's history that witnessed liberation from French colonisation and the establishment of the modern Tunisian state. We have to show respect to the true revolutionaries who have been ignored in the official history," said Qaydi.
Saleh Ben Youssef was one of the supporters of the militant struggle against French colonisers in Tunisia. Habib Bourguiba was against the resistance, which widened the rift between the two national leaders. Bourguiba succeeded in eliminating Ben Youssef's party gradually through detention campaigns, assassination, and political trials.
Last February, Tunisian lawyer Mabrouk Kourchid sued former prime minister Baji Qaid al-Sibsi, accusing him of authorising torture against the Youssefis (Ben Youssef's followers) while he was an interior minister during the 1960s.