Four Daughters: A Powerful And Poignant Portrait Of A Tunisian Mother’s Ordeal
CANNES - The Cannes Film Festival is known for showcasing some of the most daring and innovative films from around the world. This year, one of the most remarkable entries in the competition is “Four Daughters”, a documentary-fiction hybrid by Tunisian Director Kaouther Ben Hania.
The film tells the story of Olfa Hamrouni, a mother of four daughters who live in the coastal town of Sousse. In 2016, she was shocked to discover that two of her daughters, Rahma and Ghofrane, had left the country to join the Islamic State in Syria. The other two, Eya and Tayssir, stayed behind with their mother, trying to cope with the loss and the stigma.
Ben Hania, whose previous film “The Man Who Sold His Skin”, was nominated for an Oscar for best international feature, decided to approach this tragic story in an unconventional way. She hired actors to play the roles of Olfa and her missing daughters and asked them to interact with the real Eya and Tayssir, who play themselves. She also filmed interviews with Olfa and the actors, as well as re-enactments of key moments from their family life.
The result is a fascinating and moving exploration of the complex emotions and motivation of the characters, as well as a reflection on the role of cinema in representing reality. Ben Hania does not judge or condemn her subjects but rather tries to understand them and give them a voice.
She shows how Olfa, played by acclaimed Tunisian actress Hend Sabri, is a strong and resilient woman, who loves her daughters unconditionally, but also struggles with guilt, anger, and despair. She shows how Rahma and Ghofrance, played by newcomers Nour Karoui and Ichraq Matar, are not brainwashed fanatics, but rather confused and vulnerable young women who were seduced by a false promises of adventure and belonging. She shows how Eya and Tayssit are courageous and loyal sisters who suffer from the absence of their siblings and the social pressure they face.
By mixing documentary and fiction, Ben Hania creates a powerful and poignant portrait of a Tunisian mother’s ordeal, as well as a universal story of family bonds, identity crisis, and radicalization. She also challenges the stereotypes and prejudices that often surround Muslim women in the media.
“Four Daughters” is a film that deserves to be seen and discussed by audiences around the world. It is a film that proves that cinema can be a tool for empathy and dialogue, as well as for art and entertainment.