Tunisian filmmaker Moufida Tlatli, hailed as the first Arab woman to direct a feature film, has passed away at the age of 73.
Tlatli was best known for her directorial 1994 feature, The Silences of the Palace, which starred Tunisian actor Hend Sabri. The movie explores themes of exploitation and trauma, which is experienced generationally by Arab women. The director won numerous international accolades for the movie, including the Sutherland trophy at the London film festival for the most “original and imaginative” film of the year, the Golden Camera award at the Cannes film festival, and the International Critics Award at Toronto International Film Festival in 1994. The film was also named one of Africa’s 10 best films by critic and director Mark Cousins.
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Sabri shared her heartfelt condolences in a social media post. “The woman who discovered me and saw in me what others didn’t,” she said of Tlatli. “Today, she passed away, turning a page that I wasn’t ready to turn. ‘Mofa…’ The woman, the mother, the resonating voice, the delicate sensibility that led her to make masterpieces in cinema.” Sabri continued, “Arabic cinema has lost one of its greats today. My sincere condolences to all your small and big family members, the one that I proudly belong to. Thank you Mofa for everything. Thank you, my teacher. Peace be on your good spirit.”
Tlatli was born in 1947 in Sidi Bou Said and studied film editing in Paris before returning to Tunisia in 1972 to work as an editor. The director was also an esteemed member of the jury panels for various international film festivals such as the Cannes film festival, the African film festival in Milan, the Chicago film festival including Egypt’s Alexandria film festival for Mediterranean countries, and many more.