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Four Daughters 12A

Kaouther Ben Hania, France, Germany, Tunisia, 2023, 107m.

Nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards. The life of Olfa, a Tunisian woman and mother of four daughters, oscillates between light and shadow. One day, her two eldest daughters disappear. To fill their absence, director Kaouther Ben Hania calls upon professional actors and sets up an extraordinary film mechanism to unveil the story of Olfa and her daughters. An intimate journey full of hope, rebellion, violence, intergenerational transmission and sisterhood, which questions the very foundation of our societies.

The Garden Cinema View:

Provocative and highly original, Four Daughters is a meta documentary that delves into two Tunisian sisters' radicalization by ISIS and the trauma they and their mother suffered as a result.

Through a combination realism and metafiction with real actors impersonating the missing daughters, director Kaouther Ben Hania exposes the family's trauma, their internalised sense of patriarchy, which has replaced their absent husband/father, and complications within their relationships with each other. These re-enactments are raw and cunningly used to provoke the family’s feelings, rather than to explain what happened.

At times hilarious, and at times totally devastated by pain as they recollect traumatic events, the two remaining sisters are utterly fascinating to watch as they re-encounter both good and bad memories.

There's no doubt that Kaouther Ben Hania is at times employing debatable tactics to get to the emotional core of this distraught family. (There's a particularly awkward scene of a reenactment of one of the daughters' attempted rape by her mother’s boyfriend). She does, however, generally manage this with great success. Complex and compelling, Four Daughters takes us on an emotional journey that reaches far beyond the surface of things.

Hend Sabry, Olfa Hamrouni, Eya Chikahoui, Nour Karoui

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