Archive of films The Bookstore / El Kotbia

Tunisia / France
2002, 103 min

Section: Another View
Year: 2003

After some years abroad, Jamil returns to Tunisia and finds work in a bookstore. He makes the acquaintance of his boss’ dissatisfied wife Leila and his mother, the widow Aicha with whom he falls in love. The darkened bookstore thus becomes the setting for their desire to escape, but it also symbolises hope and perhaps the promise that happiness will return.


After spending some years away, Jamil returns from Paris to his native Tunisia and starts working for his uncle’s friend Tarek Othman who, after his father’s death, seeks help running the large bookstore he has inherited. From the store counter and from his room on the first floor, Jamil becomes an initially unwilling but increasingly fascinated witness to the goings-on in Tarek’s family. He makes the acquaintance of his boss’ attractive but dissatisfied wife Leila who longs to leave both the tedium of everyday life and her unpalatable marriage to become a singer, and also with his mother Aicha, recently widowed. A mutual understanding grows between Aicha and Jamil which gradually turns into love. These two individuals, divided by age, life experience and position, dare not allow their love to blossom, but neither can they give it up. The young, ambitious Leila, her careworn husband Tarek, his aging but still beautiful mother, and the troubled stranger marked by his recent emotional adventure – all in his or her own way try to find security in their lives. The darkened bookstore thus becomes the setting for their quiet despair and desire to escape, but it also symbolises hope and perhaps the promise that happiness will return.

About the director

Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba (b. 1959, Tunisia) studied scriptwriting, communications and film at the University of Quebec (1986-90). He has been writing scripts for short films and commercials since 1985; he also wrote the feature film La cité des ombres (1990). For television he directed the Tunisian children’s programme Jeux-Concours Tortues Ninjas (1993) and a number of commercials and promotional films. He made the short documentary about Costa Rica Poors and obscurs (1993) and the medium-length documentary Stambali (2000) about African religious rituals practised in Tunisia. He founded the production company Stratus Films in his native country. He is also a teacher. El Kotbia (Bookstore, 2002) is his feature directorial debut. 


YMC Productions
9, rue de la Croix, 78250, Mezy sur Seine
Tel: +33 1 309 987 02
Fax: +33 1 309 953 12

Stratus Films
5, rue Hercule (bas), 2016, Carthage
Tel: +216 71 720 980
Fax: +216 71 720 844

49, avenue Paul Doumer, 8e étage gauche, 751 16, Paris
Tel: +33 145 624 945

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Another View
Director: Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba
Screenplay: Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba
Dir. of Photography: Gilles Porte
Music: Kaïes Sellami, Julien Omé
Editor: Nadia Ben Rachid, Mounira Bhar
Producer: Nawfel Saheb-Ettaba
Production: Stratus Films, koprodukce / co-production: YMC Productions
Cast: Hend Sabri, Ahmed El Haffiene, Martine Gafsi, Yadh Beji, Raouf Ben Amor, Moustapha El Adouani, Slah M´Sadak
Contact: YMC Productions, Stratus Films, Cinexport

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