In this co-winner of the Cannes ’23 Golden Eye, Kaouther Ben Hania blends documentary and drama to explore the case of two missing sisters in Tunisia, and the family that mourns them.
Kaouther Ben Hania
Oscar-nominated Tunisian writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania (The Man Who Sold His Skin, Beauty and the Dogs) makes her first appearance at the Festival with her richest slow-study character portrait to date. Four Daughters is a documentary that bends the edges of narrative form in careful service to the stories of brave, bold, and complicated women.
Olfa Hamrouni’s two eldest daughters — Ghofrane and Rahma — disappeared in 2015 (aged 16 and 15), leaving her and her two youngest daughters, Eya and Tayssir (then aged 10 and 12), heartbroken and sleepless. In an effort to piece together their layered story, Ben Hania invites professional actors — Ichraq Matar and Nour Karoui — to step into the places of the missing sisters. And when the memories they revisit together become too difficult, acclaimed Tunisian-Egyptian actor Hend Sabri (Noura’s Dream, TIFF ’19) takes on the role of Olfa. The result is part observational wonder and part performance masterclass, as Olfa and her daughters recreate an intimate tableau to negotiate their own unique perspectives on the trauma they share, carving out complex space in the retelling of history.
Ben Hania’s patient visual treatment and signature cinematic dynamism mirror the women’s evolving characters, as their inquiry transforms and turns inward to process the grief they carry and the broad range of their survival. Co-winner of the Golden Eye for Best Documentary at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, this film is a study of raw honesty and a glimpse at love in its most painful form.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: sexual assault