Contemporary French Civilization

Technology, resistance, and Franco-Arab transculturalism in Nadia El Fani's Bedwin Hacker

Contemporary French Civilization (2013), 38, (1), 1–21.

Abstract

The development of social media use in Tunisia between 2008 and 2011, the protests that led to President Ben Ali's ousting from power, and the larger Arab Spring movement demonstrate the power of technology for global resistance. Planting the seeds of opposition to oppressive dominant power, Nadia El Fani's first feature-length film, Bedwin Hacker (2002), a cultural product of President Ben Ali's regime, foreshadowed and, to a certain extent, laid the groundwork for social media forms of resistance to emerge in 2010 and 2011. While complete freedom of expression may have seemed very unlikely in 2002, the significance of Bedwin Hacker lies in the fact that it identified or showcased individual and grassroots forms of resistance by showing the ways in which the community, the image, communication, and media, especially the Internet and television, can be effective tools of revolution. In Bedwin Hacker, the main character, Kalt, a maverick hacker who represents resistance par excellence, disregards any national purview and diffuses subversive messages in Tunisian-Arabic dialect delivered by a cartoon camel on French national television. In this article, I argue that while the possibility for cultural exchange is great between French and Maghrebi cultures, Bedwin Hacker exposes the invisible restrictions on freedom that the global North places on the global South. In the film, Kalt uses and reconfigures technology for her own purposes as a mobile citizen who defines freedom in her own terms. Moreover, Bedwin Hacker, as well as the Arab Spring, illustrates the ways in which individuals can communicate and speak against power in order to form a collective voice and to redefine themselves as citizens. The circulation of information via technology leads to unprecedented choices and relationships to authority: this redefinition creates the opportunity for social change toward the beginning of the third millennium.

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McFadden, Cybelle