‘You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one!’
Excerpt from Kauther (2014), 1 min 56 secs
Produced by and courtesy Mario Rizzi and the Sharjah Art Foundation
Kauther is the second film of the trilogy BAYT (HOUSE), focusing on the emergence of a new civil consciousness in the Arab world, and reflecting on the shifting narratives of uprising and the problematics of representation in this critical historical moment.
While focusing on the poetic intimacy of the house, BAYT chooses a personal and privileged viewpoint: the role of the woman in the family and in the changing Islamic society. In fact, in contrast to Western biased narratives, women have been at the forefront of the region's revolutions and the most active organizers and leaders, both on and offline, since the early days of the Arab Spring. The trilogy keeps a distance from the strictly political aspects of the upheavals, opting for the generally disregarded impact on private lives and human relations.
The protagonist of the film is Kauther Ayari, the first activist to give a passionate and inspired voice to Tunis rioters on 8 January 2011, precariously speaking from a window of the Trade Union's central building. She incites her comrades to stand up for freedom, social justice and democratic change. Kauther's personality is revealed through a long monologue, given directly to the camera, in a bare room, over the course of a few days.
With absolute openness and unconcealed intimacy, Kauther talks about herself, her youth, her university years and her social and political engagement in solidarity with her husband. She addresses the build-up towards the uprising of 2011 and the conditions of being a woman in present day Arab societies. The same brave woman that courageously spoke out when nobody would have ever imagined that Ben Ali would resign, is now putting the needs of her family before anything else. Although she is the mother of four children, the flame of her civil consciousness and of her sincere idealism is undiminished.
Her recount of the 2011 revolutionary spirit has the potential to open up an articulate, fresh portrait of Tunisian character and family structure. Sadness and powerlessness permeate Kauther's words, as she disappointingly confesses the people's growing ambivalence for the revolution and its main defenders. She is resigned to return to her old unsettled life with its worries and uncertainties. The narratives of euphoria and utopia are blighted by this overwhelming reality of betrayal, reducing her self-confidence into mere reveries.