Directors: Claire Belhassine

  • COUNTRY : Tunisia, United Kingdom, France, United States, Qatar


It was quite by chance that Claire Belhassine discovered that her grandfather had been a famous singer in Tunisia. The Man Behind the Microphone follows the filmmaker's quest to find out more about his past and why she knew nothing about it. Her grandfather was Hédi Jouini (1909-1990) who was known as 'Tunisia's Frank Sinatra', and was the writer of nearly a thousand songs, many of which appeared in films and contributed to the growing self-awareness in Tunisia, which became independent from France in 1956. Belhassine's highly personal film tells more than one story: it is at once a chapter from musical history, a poignant family chronicle, and a sociological account of change in a country where Western and Arab influences merge. In interviews with her father, an uncle and two aunts, Belhassine comes to grips with the family dynamics which her father Ferid describes as "very dysfunctional". Archival footage and home movies from Belhassine's summer vacation in Tunis frame what Belhassine's uncle dubs a "sad story," but one that nonetheless culminates in a regained sense of family and belonging.

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