Couscous, with its various recipes, constitutes the staple food of all of the populations of the Maghreb, including Tunisia. It is for this region what rice is for most of Asia.

Visitors to Tunisian homes are invariably received around meals of couscous. But while wealthy households typically have a variety of additional meal options on hand, poorer ones often rely solely on couscous—even “naked” or plain—for daily sustenance. Beyond representing traditional norms of hospitality, a dish of couscous is also rich in information on the economic, social, cultural and ecological circumstances of those who produce and prepare it.

The documentary « Couscous: Seeds of Dignity », which focuses on the political, social, economic and ecological conditions of cereal and couscous production, demonstrates how the food question is in fact at the heart of the issue of individual and collective human dignity as well as local and national food independence and sovereignty.

Almost self-sufficient in cereals until the beginning of the 20th century, Tunisia now imports more than half of its food needs as dependency increases from one year to the next.

Dignity—the foremost demand of the hundreds of thousands of Tunisian women and men who rose up in December 2010 and January 2011 and succeeded in bringing down the dictatorship of Ben Ali—also means the ability to eat without having to beg. Before ending his own life, Mohamed Bouazizi demanded dignity… and in his gesture there was the explosive cry: “dignity or death”. In « the people want », there was also « the people want food dignity ».

The film « Couscous: Seeds of Dignity » is an invitation to open, serious and collective debate on the policies of food dependency pursued by all Tunisian governments from the end of the French colonial era until today, six years after the fall of the Ben Ali regime. Dignity is not a slogan; it is a condition of life. Without food sovereignty, dignity is no more than an abuse of language. And without an independent and dignified peasantry, there can be no collective dignity. In the end, a healthy serving of dignity can also be found in a plate of couscous.

Réalisation/Director : Habib Ayeb

Titre original/Original title : كسكسي : حبوب الكرامة

Titre en français/French title : Couscous : Les Graines de la Dignité.

Titre en anglais/English title : Couscous : Seeds of Dignity

Année/year : 2017


Conseillers Scientifiques/Scientific advisors : Ray Bush & Amine Slim

Montage/Editing : Najwa Khéchimi

Image/Cinematography : Marwen Trabelsi & Ahmad essid

Etalonnage/Color grading : Idir Ben Slama

Mixage/Mixing : Yazid Chebbi.

Production : Inside