BEAUTY AND THE DOGS (AALA KAF IRIT)
(director/writer: Kaouther Ben Hania; screenwriter: loosely based on “Coupable d’avoir été violée” by Meriem Ben Mohamed; cinematographer: Johan Holmquist; editor: Nadia Ben Rachid; music: Amine Bouhafa; cast: Mariam Al Ferjani (Mariam), Ghanem Zrelli (Youssef), Noomane Hamda (Chedla), Anissa Daoud (Faiza), Neder Gh (Infirmier); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Habib Attia, Nadim Cheikhrouha; Oscilloscope Laboratories; 2017-France/Tunisia/Sweden-in Arabic with English subtitles)
“The police are viewed as the Dogs of the title.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An emotional roller-coaster ride of a rape story set in Tunisia by the up and coming strong female Tunisian writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania (“The Blade of Tunis”/ “Zaineb takrahou ethelj“).
The police are viewed as the Dogs of the title, as the nightmarish tale is set over a long and harrowing night. It’s set in a country that has a long history of suppressing women. It’s oddly filmed in nine sections and all with single-take sequences. It’s loosely based on the 2013 book “Coupable d’avoir été violée” by Meriem Ben Mohamed, and is supposedly inspired by a true story.
The perky university single co-ed, the 21-year-old Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani, newcomer), attends a university party with friends and meets a handsome boy named Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli). They leave the party together and take a walk on the beach, where she’s raped by several policemen. The rape takes place off-screen. The victim is filled with shame and tears, and is astonishingly refused admittance to a clinic because she has no identity (even after explaining that she lost her purse during the rape). Her women friends tell her it will do her no good to report it, but she decides to report it anyway to the police officers in the same station as the police who committed this heinous act. Though she’s believed by the police, they act to protect their colleagues by saying she brought it on herself by tempting them by wearing such a revealing dress and that her boyfriend should have fought off the attackers. When she gets hysterical because they do nothing, they show their resentment by telling her they can’t go home to their families because they have to handle her case.
It’s a blunt film, not subtle at pointing the finger of blame on their backward government for taking the side of the rapists over their victims. Mariam Al Ferjani gives a credible moving performance, in a risky and bold film that at times is torturous to watch even if it has something vital to say about how women can be treated unfairly in all parts of the world.
A Cannes Un Certain Regard award is an endorsement for the indie art film by the international forward thinking critics and crowd.
REVIEWED ON 11/3/2018 GRADE: B