Essay on cultural similarities between Tunisia and Armenia, based on a synopsis of a French-Tunisian comedy “Arab Blues”, 2019; and comparative research on mentioned countries.
Directed by Manele Labidi Labbé, “Arab Blues” acquaints us with the cultural reality of “post-Arab Spring” Tunisia, where we get to know not only the characteristic boiling temper of the locals living there but also get to learn about Tunisians’ common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Selma( Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani), a young charismatic psychoanalyst, smoking, with tattoos, decides to move to the country of her roots(where conservatism and the image of a “proper” Arab woman are, sadly, still, relevant) after living in Paris since childhood, aiming to pursue her career in her homeland.
In this 88 minute long French-Tunisian comedy, we see how controversial feelings may arise after giving up on freedom and comfort in one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Paris, and moving to the post-revolution homeland, Ezzahra, where both the mental state of locals and administrative structures, affected by long-term dictatorship, who drag their heels over work; need to get fixed.
This masterpiece by Manele Labidi Labbé, drives the viewer into a colorful journey through the aesthetics of the Tunisian exterior and teaches empathy and acceptance, after listening to “what’s going on” in the heads of people, who, first, feared therapy and then, got involved in self-journey, waiting in the queue for their another psychotherapy session.
Point of view, based on research
Guess, geography and religion are the two biggest differences between Tunisia, located in Northern Africa, and my home country, Armenia, situated in Western Asia. Nevertheless, the similarities I noticed, relate to way more important areas: common personality traits, such as, for example, communicativeness, mental health issues, female rights(mostly, violation of those rights), and the rising interest in mental self-care.
With an unemployment rate of 20.9% in Armenia and 16.8% in Tunisia respectively, we can assume that it could be one of the most common reasons affecting mental health negatively, in both countries. Another factor, affecting the mental state, by making citizens feel not secure in their countries and having high-level anxiety is the rate of political stability, (35 in Armenia, and 38 in Tunisia, respectively) which is lower than the average in both countries, due to conflicts with neighboring countries and revolutions (Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, in 2010, and Velvet Revolution in Armenia, 2018).
Sticking to traditions, passing through generational trauma, and fighting for their identity in this big world, to save the culture are the most “must-have” components in the blood of both Tunisians and Armenians. However, I think, that, although those traditions should remind us of millennial history, they must develop in the same way as education does, without violating the rights of all human beings, no matter sex, gender, race, and religion. The process of modernization in these countries is slow, due to the prevention of cultural heritage, but, fortunately, world digitalization brought us to a state in which we can finally educate ourselves on topics that really matter, such as globalization, ecology problems, human rights, and importance of mental health. The popularization of mental health care on social media platforms influences a lot: it makes us more self-aware.
Self-awareness and self-consciousness lead to understanding the rules of our ancestors(even the most brutal ones)and choosing not to follow some of them anymore.
In “Arab Blues” people don’t even plan to attend therapy, fearing others would think they have some “real” problems, or, some of the neighbors would assume they are crazy. Nonetheless, after realizing that therapy is a sort of a “dialogue session”, people want to see the therapist more and more( as, first of all, they hear themselves now, and, also, there is someone who wants to listen to them and asks right questions, which make rethink their whole life).
Does going to therapy break the rules of our ancestors?
No. It makes us better than our ancestors, who didn’t go to therapy.