Film Review: ‘Fatwa’ explores extremism through a father’s eyes

A still from 'Fatwa.' (Image supplied) 
Updated 04 December 2018
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Film Review: ‘Fatwa’ explores extremism through a father’s eyes

CAIRO: Tunisian writer-director Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud’s latest creation, “Fatwa,” which won the Best Film award at the Carthage Film Festival and also the Saad Eldin Wahba Prize for Best Arab Film at the Cairo International Film Festival explores the process of radicalization in Tunisia, as well as its effect on the families involved, in a punchy piece of cinema that is sometimes marred by a winding script.  

The film offers a deeply disturbing look at the radicalization of Tunisian youth and sheds light on a system that offers little in the way of reformation — even for former extremists who have had a change of heart, but are thrown in jail with no hope for the future. Actor Ahmed Hafiane plays a father, Brahim Nadhour, who rushes back to Tunisia when he hears that his son has died in a motorcycle accident.Hafiane, who won the Best Actor prize at the Carthage Film Festival for his portrayal of the devastated father, plays the role with believable angst and tension.

The father soon discovers that his son had quit university to join an extremist group, which declared a fatwa on Nadhour’s secular and liberal ex-wife, Loubna, essayed by Ghalia Benali. Nadhour is not sure if his son, an experienced driver, really lost control of his motorcycle and crashed or if there is more to the accident than there seems. So, the grieving man sets outs on his relentless pursuit of the truth.

The movie unfolds in 2013 — a dark year for Tunisia, with several high-profile assassinations and terror attacks. The director expertly portrays the strange dichotomies inherent in Tunisia by showcasing such horrific events against the backdrop of a largely liberal society and Nadhour, having lived away from his homeland, sees all this with rare clarity.

The film also shines a harsh spotlight on the media’s role in perpetuating stereotypes about Tunisia, with its constant focus on all things terror-related, and one lesson audiences can take away from the film is that moderate, liberal Muslims need more attention — Nadhour is an example.

Layered and packed with power, the slightly convoluted script is where “Fatwa” hits a stumbling block that could leave audiences scrambling to follow the narrative. It is, however, a fascinating watch.


What We Are Reading Today: Revolutionizing the Sciences by Peter Dear

Updated 16 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Revolutionizing the Sciences by Peter Dear

  • The book reflects on the origins of scientific practice in early modern Europe

This thoroughly revised third edition of an award-winning book offers a keen insight into how the scientific revolution happened and why. Covering central scientific figures, including Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Bacon, this new edition features greater treatment of alchemy and associated craft activities to reflect trends in current scholarship.

The book reflects on the origins of scientific practice in early modern Europe. Peter Dear traces the revolution in thought that changed the natural world from something to be contemplated into something to be used, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Concise and readable, this book is ideal for students who are studying the scientific revolution and its impact on the early modern world. The first edition was the winner of the Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize of the History of Science Society.