’Four Daughters’ combines documentary and fiction to portray a Tunisian mother

CANNES, May 19 (Reuters) – Tunisian director Gouthar Ben Hania mixes fiction and documentary to capture the story of Olfa Hamrouni, who fought for the Islamic State in „Four Daughters,” the first prize at the Cannes Film Festival. .

The only Arab entry in the competition follows Hamrouni, who drew international attention in 2016 for criticizing Tunisian authorities for failing to prevent one of his daughters from fleeing to Libya and fighting with her sister for an Islamist militant group.

„Journalists need time away to look deeper into contradictions, feelings, emotions. It’s the role of cinema to explore these areas, these ambiguities of the human spirit,” Ben Hania said in a news release.

For the film, Ben Hania wanted to show Hamrooni’s problems, but noticed that whenever the camera was on she fell into the well-trodden narrative of the guilt-ridden mother.

„OLFA was conditioned by journalists,” said Ben Hania.

The director did this conditioning by saying that he was hiring the famous Tunisian actor Hind Sabri to portray Hamrooni in a film and that Hamrooni would have to prepare her.

Ben Hania also recruited actors to play the missing daughters.

„By asking her questions about specific details and her motivations, Hind Sabri allows Olfa to reflect on her past without involving her,” said Ben Hania. „If Olfa had been alone with me, she would have given the same story.”

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Ben Hania walked the red carpet for the film’s premiere on Friday evening alongside the real-life Hamrooni and her two daughters, as well as the actors who played the missing daughters and Sabri.

His last film „The Man Who Sold His Skin” is the Tunisian entry for Best International Feature at the 2021 Oscars.

Report by Miranda Murray; Editing by Jonathan Otis

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