LOS ANGELES: After winning the L’Oeil d’or award for best documentary following its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s movie “Four Daughters” will now screen at Jeddah’s Red Sea International Film Festival.
Ben Hania is no stranger to critical acclaim and saw her 2020 feature "The Man Who Sold His Skin" nominated at the Academy Awards in the best international feature film category. Tunisia has now submitted her latest film in the same category for the 2024 Oscars, with the nominations yet to be announced.
She spoke to Arab News about the challenges involved in filming the flick.
She said: “It’s not about one scene or another. It’s about how to translate all the complexity of this story, all the layers of this story, because it’s a movie about motherhood.
“It’s a movie about transmission between generations, transmission of trauma also. It’s a movie about Tunisia. All those themes were very important to me.”
The film tells the true story of Olfa Hamrouni, a heart-broken Tunisian mother of four daughters. The two eldest, aged 15 and 16, disappear in 2015 after being radicalized by extremists.
Ben Hania started working on “Four Daughters” in 2016, when she first heard the story on the news in Tunisia.
“I started thinking about making a documentary about it. But when I met Olfa and her daughters, I thought that I could do a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It took me some years to come up with the actual form of the movie,” she added.
Professional actresses filled in for the missing sisters, while renowned Egyptian actress Hend Sabri replaced Hamrouni as memories started to weigh heavy on the mom. This created a unique hybrid of fiction and documentary in the co-production between Tunisia, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.
Ben Hania said: “I needed actresses in the movie directed by the real character so we could summon the past and have access to their trauma.
“It’s Olfa who gave me the idea because she’s a huge fan of Hend Sabri, so I thought it would be very interesting to ask Hend to play Olfa and be directed by her.
“The shooting was very intense because it’s a real story. It’s not an easy life. So, it was very intense, but also it was funny, because they are really funny.
“Their way to cope with this tragedy is to laugh about it, which was really amazing, so we were laughing and crying,” she added.