Ghofrane Binous is a twenty-five-year-old caught up in the political uncertainty of a Post-Arab Spring Tunisia. Director Raja Amari’s documentary, She Had a Dream, takes us along Binous’ journey as activist and political candidate. Through Binous, the viewer can appreciate the political and cultural complexity of Tunisia. Binous wants to be a political voice for underrepresented constituencies. She lives in a blue-collar neighborhood. Her neighbors express the economic and social frustrations of every blue-collar neighborhood in the world. She not only hears the frustrations, but she also experiences them. Binous also embodies the tensions vented by Tunisian women caught in a push-pull between traditionalism and modernity. As if class and gender were not enough, Binous embodies another intersectional vector—she is Afro-Tunisian.
Some of the best scenes in She Had a Dream involve Binous engaging in the nitty-gritty of political campaigning. She actively listens to her neighbors’ political gripes at neighborhood get-togethers, in beauty salons, and in street corners. Even ex-cons from her neighborhood talk amicably to her; they treat Binous both respectfully and as part of the neighborhood. Amari gives us a palpable sense of an ideal that is oft mentioned in the abstract, but rarely experienced—community. As Binous puts it, she never received a “wounding word” from her neighbors. The discrimination she has faced has usually come from the “cultured” or “elite.”
She Had a Dream offers us an eye-opening exploration of race in Tunisia. Parts of the country are segregated and strongly discourage mixed marriages. Some taxi drivers will not take Afro-Tunisians as passengers. In one scene, Binous expresses that she wants to be a role model for other Afro-Tunisian women and not straighten her hair; the implication being that straightening happens all too often. Another eye-opener involves the country’s attitude toward their Post-Arab Spring democracy. There is an electricity around the elections. There is a vibrancy around different political parties competing against each other, the crafting of political strategies, and election day vote tallies; in other words, the hurly-burly of democracy. It is inspiring seeing Binous engage in the democratic process in spite of the many personal setbacks she encounters, and in spite of the setbacks faced by the country in the form of terrorist bombings.
On the opposite side of this democratic vibrancy lies an apathy and distrust toward the political process, and the corrupt practices of politicians, in segments of the Tunisian population. We see Binous’ attempts at dissuading the apathetic and skeptical Tunisians she meets. Binous’ campaigning, depending upon which perspective one adopts, is either hopeful or Sisyphean. But no matter which perspective one adopts, one cannot help but cheer for Binous. We all know her challenge is great. Apathy is perhaps more dangerous to democracy than terrorist bombs.
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