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The Tragic Experience of Kawthar Ben Haniyeh – The Hollywood Reporter


Heartbreaking Kawthar bin Haniyeh Four daughters (Lee Phyllis Dolva) It attracts you with a question: Who is Olfa Hamrouni?

She rose to international fame in 2016 when she criticized the Tunisian government for not preventing her daughters from joining the Islamic State in Libya. In interviews from those years, Hamrouni is a bereaved mother. Her voice ache with pain as she recounts the loss of her two eldest daughters, and trembles with anger when she speaks of the government’s tepid response.

Four daughters

bottom line

Destructive and absorbing.

place: Cannes Film Festival (Competition)
Throw: Hind Sabri, Olfa Hamrouni, Eya Chikhawi, Tayseer Chikhawi, Nour Al-Qarawi, Ishraq Matar, Majd Mastoura
Director and screenwriter: Kawthar bin Haniyeh

1 hour 50 minutes

Olfa Ben Hania’s documentary account seems more relaxed. She has replaced her pink veil with a black veil that is tightly tied around her head. She is freer with her laughter and more to her sides. Grief still underpins her anecdotes, as does a palpable desire to share. She eagerly explains how she believes a movie about her life would help her spread an important message and help her heal.

in many ways, Four daughters It is indeed a movie about Olfa’s life, but maybe not in the way she expected. Inspired by Abbas Kiarostami close up, This chronicles the process of shooting a movie based on a mother and her four daughters. Ben Hania hires two actors – Nour Al Karoui and Ishraq Matar – to play the role of Olfa’s two missing daughters, Rahma and Ghufran, in addition to the actress (Hind Sabri) to play the role of Olfa during extremely shocking moments for Olfa herself. Olfa’s two remaining daughters, Eya and Tayseer, play themselves. Together, this crew arranges the memories as scenes, creating a fictionalized version of the events experienced by Olva and her family to help loosen their grip on the present.

bin Haniyeh (Camels and dogs, the man who sold his skin) uses that experience to extend Olfa’s story as well, making her subtle threads more visible. Four daughters It is a captivating story about memory, motherhood, and the traumas inherited in a patriarchal society. It deals with topics similar to those written by Zarar Kan on fireAnother Cannes entrant that explores the relationships between mothers and daughters and oppressive regimes. But while on fire horror conventions apply, Four daughters Stages of a ruined room piece. It’s like a Robert Greene documentary processionwhich is a collaborative exercise in trauma recovery.

The well-made film takes place in a sparsely decorated apartment and opens with an encounter between the performers and Olfa’s family. Initial bouts of awkwardness lead to the first poignant moments. Seeing Karoui and Matar, Olfa and her two daughters started to cry. The actresses’ resemblance to their sisters is uncanny: comments on the similarities between smiles and mannerisms circulate while a few tears are shed. This first encounter forces Olfa and her family to confront the reality of this experience: Catharsis will not come without her challenges.

Their story begins with Olfa and Sabri talking about Olfa’s upbringing. The descriptions of the cruelty and abuse she faced as a child are harrowing. She talks about a childhood filled with fear, an adolescence organized around weight training and self-defense classes, and an adulthood where no one, not even a man, can benefit from it. In one particularly harrowing anecdote, Olfa discusses a member of her family breaking into her room on her wedding night and encouraging her husband to exert as much force and aggression as possible to get Olfa to sleep with him.

The devastating psychological toll of this upbringing on intimacy becomes more apparent when Ben Hania begins interviewing Ia and Tayseer, who describe being beaten as children. Their descriptions of their mother, who humiliated and beat them all in the name of protecting them from outside forces, complicate an earlier vision of intimacy. It also forces Olfa to deal with aspects of herself that she has repressed.

During these moments, when Olfa, Eya and Tayseer must confront themselves, this Four daughters It becomes absolutely stunning, moving from a documentary about Operation Surveillance to an exhilarating confrontation between fact and performance, past and present. Ben Hania’s project shifts seamlessly between re-enactments and introductory conversations about these scenes. We see the actors grappling with the source material (and thus the sources) and confronting their own morals and limitations. There are some excellent moments when Sabri and Majd Mastura, who are set to play Olfa’s ex-husband and ex-boyfriend, discuss their process as actors – what they bring to the role and how they keep themselves from getting sucked into the weight of the character. material.

All of this, in turn, helps Olfa and her family understand themselves in a new light. Conversations between Sabri and Olfa show how Olfa treated her daughters the same way her mother treated her – with more arbitrary protection. Eya and Tayseer also gain trust over the course of the movie, allowing them to share the feelings we buried. They talk about the hurtful words their mother hurls at them at her most emotional moment and deal with the damaging relationships they had with their father and their mother’s latest boyfriend.

The exercise builds a hologram of this family, whose lives have been leveled by news programmes. It helps them see each other more clearly, which leads to some of the most emotionally affecting and disturbing scenes, and gives them space to understand how fear and patriarchy have shaped their behaviours. There’s a tenderness to the whole project, too. Ben Hania’s film rarely feels exploitative or manipulative. Indeed, more than anything else, Four daughters Radical in her honesty and courage.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.