Film review: ‘Dear Son’ is a superb study of a failing family

A still from the film. (Image supplied)
Updated 27 September 2018
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Film review: ‘Dear Son’ is a superb study of a failing family

  • Director Mohamed Ben Attia explores the concepts of freedom and free will in ‘Dear Son’
  • Attia makes a superbly subtle transition in his second film, from what was essentially a familial issue in “Hedi” to the broader, more frightening world of terrorism

EL GOUNA: Tunisian writer-director Mohamed Ben Attia made his mark with his first feature, “Hedi,” in which a young man challenged familial and societal norms by marrying the woman of his choice, a decision seen as a radical move in his conservative Islamic community.

Attia further explores the concepts of freedom and free will in his second film, “Dear Son,” which screened this week at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt, but this time the auteur moves into much darker territory, exploring the deadly ramifications that can reach far beyond the family unit.

Mohamed Dhrif, a largely unknown veteran television actor, enriches the film with a memorably controlled performance as a father, Riadh, whose world collapses when his 19-year-old son, Sami (Zakaria Ben Ayed), disappears without any warning. Given his less-than-warm relationship with his wife Nazli (Mouna Mejri), Riadh has instead focused on being a doting father to his son, obsessively worrying about the teenager’s frequent migraine attacks. With doctors unsure whether the headaches have a deeper psychological cause, and Sami stressed out about approaching academic exams, Riadh’s anxieties keep multiplying.

Attia makes a superbly subtle transition in his second film, from what was essentially a familial issue in “Hedi” to the broader, more frightening world of terrorism. Although the family unit, a very small one at that, in “Dear Son” appears to be solid, with loving parents who care more for their son, Attia hints at the influences outside the home that can have a far stronger grip on an impressionable teenager. This extremist plot is introduced later in the movie, though before this Attia offers broad hints of what is to come when he shows us a street demonstration that disturbs Sami.

But in the end, this is really the story of a father grappling with his own demons while on a journey to find his son.


Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

Updated 40 min 40 sec ago
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Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

  • The discovery was made on the Mata Indio dig site in the northern Lambayeque region
  • Despite evidence of looting, archaeologists recovered items including vases

LIMA: Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.
The discovery was made on the Mata Indio dig site in the northern Lambayeque region, archaeologist Luis Chero told state news agency Andina.
Archaeologists believe the tomb belonged to a noble Inca based on the presence of “spondylus,” a type of sea shell always present in the graves of important figures from the Incan period, which lasted from the 12th to the 16th centuries.
The tomb had been broken into multiple times, possibly in search of treasure. But despite evidence of looting, archaeologists recovered items including vases.
The tomb also had unique architecture including hollows for the placement of idols.
Chero said the findings “demonstrate the majesty and importance of this site,” located 1,000 kilometers north of the capital Lima, and 2,000 kilometers from Cusco — capital of the Inca empire which stretched from southern Colombia to central Chile.