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.


‘Joy’ snags top prize at Marrakesh Film Festival

Sudabeh Mortezai (center) poses with her trophy. (AFP)
Updated 09 December 2018
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‘Joy’ snags top prize at Marrakesh Film Festival

  • Marrakesh’s 17th annual festival was attended by top cinema stars like US director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert de Niro

MARRAKESH: Austrian filmmaker Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy,” an unflinching look at migrant sex workers in Europe, won the top prize Saturday at the Marrakesh Film Festival in Morocco.

Italian actress Monica Bellucci presented the trophy for the film, which tells the story of a young Nigerian forced into prostitution in Vienna.

Marrakesh’s 17th annual festival was attended by top cinema stars like US director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert de Niro.

Tunisian Nidhal Saadi won Best Actor for his role in the film “Regarde moi” (Look at me), directed by Nejib Belkhadi.

And German Aenne Schwarz won Best Actress for her role in “Alles is gut” (All is good), directed by Eva Trobish. Tribute evenings honored the careers of visionary French filmmaker Agnes Varda and her co-director, French street artist JR, who teamed up to produce the road documentary “Faces Places.”

The festival also hailed the career of Moroccan filmmaker Jilali Ferhati, whose films were shown in a new “panorama of Moroccan cinema” sidebar.