I take pride in my origin, says Kamel

DUBAI — A Tunisian-born film actor and director, Kamel Cherif takes pride in his work, Sign of Belonging, which is being shown in the Dubai International Film Festival.

By Ramona Ruiz

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Published: Fri 10 Dec 2004, 12:13 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:24 PM

“This is my first time in Dubai, and I am very happy to show this film which speaks of the complexity of cultural identity. This is the first time that a film from the Arab world has won the award for Best Short Film at the Venice International Film Festival this year,” said Mr Cherif, the film's director, producer and scriptwriter who is based both in Paris and Belgium.

He added: “I hope to meet other film-makers in this international film festival, and discuss issues on multi-cultural diversity and share our experiences as well as the difficulties we encounter in the countries where we shoot our films. It is what we may call a diaspora of Arab film-makers. If the Arab world is getting a negative image in the world, it is the people who could convey and reflect the positive image of the Arab world. I have decided to become a director because I wanted to give another vision — a positive one — of the Arab world.”

Sign of Belonging is a 30-minute film that delves into the world of an Arab child to tell a story of innocent suffering and the struggle that tore him between his culture and that of the West.

Most of the scenes in this short film were shot in Tunisia and the rest in Belgium. “The preparations involved in shooting this film in Tunisia had been difficult, as I had been an immigrant since the age of five. The film focuses on the difficulty of becoming an Arab child since every child would like every child to be an advocate of his own community. He is torn between a dual culture. I play the part of the child's father in the film,” he said. The child in the film is being portrayed by Mohammed Ali Boumnijel. Other actors include Jamila Chihi, Ahmed Snoussi and Kalil Mateo.

“I may be an immigrant at an early age, but I have learned to look back and take pride in my origin. Most of my films, including Sign of Belonging, tells my own story since I had been an immigrant at five,” he pointed out. Mr Cherif, who came to live in France at the age of six, has been an actor for the past 15 years. He has made movies with Bertolucci, Corneau, Joffe and Lauzier co-starring with Nastassja Kinski. He has a directed four films since he began his career in 1999. In 1999, he released his first short film Premier Noel (First Christmas) which has since won over 50 awards worldwide, including the Grand Prix Cannes Junior 2001 award.

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