Mon May 19,2014
By E. Nina Rothe
Kaouther Ben Hania's film Challat of Tunis screened in front of an overpacked, sold-out audience this year in Cannes, part of the ACID program. ACID is a French film directors association that helps films find an audience, but also distribution and more screening options. In this, Challat of Tunis was the perfect choice, as their successful opening night event proved, beyond all doubts.
Ben Hania's is a documentary-meets-fiction film, which left me with that wonderfully tippy feeling of not knowing where reality ends and make-believe starts. I enjoyed it thoroughly, because while telling a story taken from the Tunisian headlines -- of a man on a scooter who in 2003 went around slashing the bottoms of women he considered inappropriately dressed -- it really ran alongside a commentary on society in Tunisia today. Nothing is what it seems but everything is open to interpretation, with the help of Ben Hania's presence to help thread the story through. Full of insight, poignancy and even humor -- the filmmaker holds auditions to find the perfect slasher for her film -- Challat of Tunis is a film that comes freshly out of country where telling the truth, speaking one's mind is no longer a crime.
I caught up with Ben Hania and her producers, Julie Paratian and Habib Attia, in the UAE Pavilion in Cannes for a wonderful chat about their film.