// Presented as part of December's North African Series //
Kaouther Ben Hania / 2013, Cannes ACID, Amiens, Beirut, Dubai, Malmo, Medfilm Brussels, Medfilm Rome, Namur, San Sebastián, Sarajevo, Traverse City / 90'
In Tunis before the revolution, a strange rumor is in the air regarding a man on a motorbike, who rides around the city slashing the buttocks of women he considers incorrectly dressed. Ten years later, a young director hears that this man, the Challat (slasher), is set to be released from prison. She becomes intent on investigating the notorious Challat of Tunis, interviewing both the victims and a few suspects who seem to have disparate, if unequivocal, views on the urban legend.
Filmed in a mockumentary style, Challat of Tunis is an sharp, satirical study of the attitudes regarding women in this newly democratic nation. Kaouther Ben Hania's second feature participated in Final Cut at Venice; premiered at Cannes ACID, Dubai and San Sebastián: and won the Trophees Francophones du Cinema for Best Director.
Challat of Tunis: Sexism, Lies and Computer Games in Tunisia
In an exclusive essay for Filmatique, Dr. Flo Martin examines the Agnès Varda tradition of the documenteur, female cinema in post-recolutionary Tunisia and the contradictions of the country's ostensibly progressive gender politics in Kaouther Ben Hania's Challat of Tunis.
"[Ben Hania's] search for the slasher, or "Challat," acerbically weaves together fact and fiction; she juxtaposes a far-fetched virginity test, for example, with real, on-the-street testimonies from Tunisians intent on covering and controlling women's bodies. The film's handheld, investigative approach and dark humor effectively decry the treatment of women in Muslim societies while steering clear of victimization. When the laughs subside, reality is revealed to be both stranger and sadder than fiction"
"Backward attitudes toward women are sharply sent up in Kaouther Ben Hania's audacious mockumentary"
"This playful blend of real and fake documentary uses a bizarre true story of unsolved knife attacks against women to examine gender politics in newly democratic Tunisia... Offering a wry feminist critique of macho chauvinism in Arab culture, Tunisian writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania's second feature is an intriguing addition to the boom in low-budget filmmaking inspired by the recent wave of Middle East revolutions"
- Stephen Dalton, Cannes Review, The Hollywood Reporter
"[A] searing portrait of a culture in which misogyny is so deeply entrenched that violence against women is seen as natural and right. But even beyond this, especially in light of recent events in the West, it displays an attitude towards women that can be seen in cultures and countries around the world... a brilliantly conceived and developed story, and Ben Hania crafts it perfectly to bring home the satirical message of reality within the satire"
- Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Cannes Review, Screen Anarchy
"Based on a 2003 news story that became an urban legend, director Kaouther Ben Hania has made an unclassifiable film, both funny and terrifying, light and tragic, inspiring the audience to laugh, cry and want to revolt. Because her approach is so unusual, a maze of fiction injected with truth (or even the other way around) with a wide variety of characters, the director, who plays "herself," offers up an off-the-wall investigation of a monster who incorporates all the contradictions and traditions of a country in the midst of change. This striking and entertaining movie is very interesting and dense, a perfect example of liberated cinema that refuses to be labeled"
- Geoffrey Crété, Film Review, Cineman
"[D]irector Ben Hania explores the themes of misogyny and patriarchy present in much of Tunisian society. She also approaches religious conservatism, lack of education, and poverty as related aspects of crimes and stigmas against women through interviews with locals and religious figures in less socioeconomically developed districts of Tunisia"
- Natasha Turak, Film Review, Tunisia Live
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