In Winter 2021, students enrolled in the course RL407/507 Queer from the South took part in a virtual Q&A with two of the Tunis-based Mawjoudin Queer Film organizers Festival (MQFF), Weema Askri and Karam Aouni. Joined also by Cinema Studies majors from CINE440/540 Mediterranean Film & Media, RL students learned about this film festival's history and LGBTQ activism in Tunisia.
Started in 2018, the MQFF is the first queer film festival to take place in North Africa. It is run by members of Mawjoudin (Arabic for ‘we exist’), a local non-governmental organization that works towards achieving equality and rights for the Tunisian LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups. During their conversation with Askri and Aouni, students learned about the fight of the activists who work for the MQFF to repeal Article 230, a Tunisian law created during the French colonial rule that criminalizes homosexuality. They also learned about how this festival supports and showcases the work of queer filmmakers from North Africa and other regions of the Global South.
After the Q&A, student Madi Scalan noted that ‘the chance to meet directly with the festival organizers was an amazing experience for the students who attended. Weema [Askri] and Karam [Aouni] provided so many insights on what goes into organizing a queer film festival. It was such a powerful opportunity to hear from grassroots activists from North Africa. As a student in higher education in the Global North, it is imperative to hear such perspectives.’
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the organizers were forced to postpone the third edition of the MQFF. They are nevertheless optimistic about the festival's future and look forward to bringing together – as soon as possible – the Tunisian queer community in a movie theater.
This virtual conversation took place within the context of a broader inquiry into the queer media cultures of the Mediterranean undertaken by RL students throughout the winter term.