A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR, JESSIE DEETER
This film began when I was living abroad with my family in 2010 and 2011 as a Fulbright Scholar in Oman, Morocco and Tunisia. When the people of Tunisia, the country we lived in that seemed least likely to spark a Revolution, kicked out President Ben Ali, we knew that the world would never be the same. It was the equivalent of the fall of the Berlin wall, and, as a journalist and documentary film-maker, I knew that I wanted to find a way to tell the story. But I also knew that there would be other journalists and film-makers telling the story of the Revolution(s-as it turned out). I wanted a way to get at the deeper questions of what happens after a Revolution. What would democracy mean in a land that has never had it? What would be the role of the Islamists who were persecuted for so many years under the old authoritarian, Euro-centric, regime? Would the freedoms and rights of women be protected if Islamists are given more say in a newly democratic system?
My Tunisian film-making partner, Sara Maamouri, and I soon met two women on opposite sides of the political spectrum who we thought were exceptional representatives of what their country was facing. Emna Ben Jemaa is a staunchly secular journalist/blogger and heroine of the Revolution, and Jawhara Ettis is an Islamist English teacher who, as it turns out, was elected to the first Parliament after the Revolution, in charge of writing Tunisia’s new constitution. We have fallen in love with these women as they have matured from unmarried young idealists into mature women, wives and mothers of girls born two weeks apart. We have been filming them over the course of four years as their personal struggles have mirrored the external challenges facing their country.
I have received a Pulitzer Crisis Reporting grant and produced three stories for the PBS/Newshour in addition to funding a successful Kickstarter campaign and finding an amazing Executive Producer, Marcy Garriott, who have kept this project alive for over four and a half years.
My love for and knowledge of the MENA region goes back to my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco in ’94-96, when my then best friend, now husband, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia. We both speak French and Arabic, and I was the first person in UC Berkeley’s journalism program to get a second Master’s degree with a Middle East focus in 2001. We have lived and worked in countries through the region for two decades.