Tunisia – “The Man Who Sold His Back”, which starts on Wednesday in Tunisia and is the first Tunisian film to reach the Oscar finalists, follows a Syrian refugee who sells his back as a living work of art. with the aim of reaching Europe.
In this third feature film of his career, which began in 2010, Tunisian-French director Kawthar Ben Haniyeh moves from Tunisia to plunge into two distant worlds that evoke his passion: refugees and contemporary art.
The film tells the story of Sam Ali, a young Syrian who, after an arbitrary arrest, is forced to flee his war-torn Syrian country and leaves a girl he loves to seek refuge in Lebanon.
And because he has no official documents to link his loved one to Belgium, Sam Ali signed a contract with a well-known artist to help him get a visa to Europe in exchange for allowing the artist to use the back of a young Syrian to wear it and present it to the public.
The idea for the film inspired Ben Chania in part from the story of young Belgian Tim Steiner, who sold his compatriot, contemporary artist Wim Delpho, the right to keep tattoos on his back, turning him into a living painting to be shown.
“The protagonist of the film forms a link between the refugee world and contemporary art,” Ben Haniyeh told AFP alongside a special screening of the film, which was given to reporters on the eve of its release in Tunis, explaining that “events take place in the Middle East.
The film, shot in France, Belgium and Tunisia, will be screened Friday in the United States, where it will compete for an Oscar during its annual concert in Los Angeles on April 25.
The film, which lasts more than an hour and a half, begins with a scene in which Sam Ali is arrested after being slandered because he considered himself “free in a country undergoing revolution.”
The character of Sam Ali, played by Syrian actor Yahya Mahain, who lives in Paris, is in addition to all the characters in the tournament, including the Frenchman Dia Lien and the Belgian Quinn de Pau, in addition to the Italian star Monica. Bellucci, who looked like a woman trying to “hide her origins” in the Middle East.
Regarding Bellucci’s participation, Ben Haneya explains, “I was looking for a beautiful and gourmet personality and I found Monica to accept the participation effortlessly.”
As for the Syrian actor, he describes his involvement in the film as an “opportunity of life” and explains to Agence France-Press: “I don’t think any actor would aspire to this role … it’s an ambitious film.”
Bin Haniyeh’s camera follows the film’s hero as he moves between galleries, where he has to show for hours upon hours in front of photographers or visitors ’lenses, arousing the curiosity of some while others see him as an attack on his freedom.
The shooting method and switching the lighting style between scenes play an important role in presenting the events. The scenes shot outside the galleries were dominated by bright lighting, revealing the fine details of the interior and the facial features of the characters, while other scenes were dominated by dark colors.
“The man who sold his back” Syrian immigrant arrives in Tunisia to compete for the award for best foreign film
The film also highlights the variation of the hero’s character between happiness and anger, as the director uses symbols to indicate his anger as he transforms him into a kind of commodity and a state of boredom based on boredom.
“Our main concern is how to make the protagonist modern-day hero, whose heavy adventure ends in his favor,” the director says and adds: “I’m tired of the conversation, in which a refugee is seen only as a victim,” even though he may be a “peer-to-peer” with the artist.
This is evidenced by the film’s end to the hero’s “victory” by restoring his “ownership of the body taken from him”.
Mahaini dreams that the audience in his country will see this work, which is a co-production of agencies from several countries such as France, Tunisia, Germany, Qatar and Turkey.
The Tunisian film competes for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in the category of “Anather Round” (Denmark), “Peter Dies” (Hong Kong), “Lekteev” (Romania) and “Ko Fades, Aida” (Bosnia), ninety-third of this event.
“The Man Who Sold His Back” in the 4th edition of the “El Gouna Film Festival.”
The Tunisian director describes the candidacy as an “unprecedented major event at the Tunisian cinema,” but deplores the country’s lack of official support for the film sector.
The “man who sold his back” almost didn’t see the light, as the film’s budget of € 2.5 million was hard to put together by Tunisian labor producers who are optimistic about the expected results despite the Oscars. weak promotional power in the face of competing works, some of which are supported by the parties.
Ben Chania hopes that his experience will be the starting point for “changing the perception of producers later and providing other opportunities to present similar works.”
She has previously directed several short and documentary films, and her film “On the Hand of the Imp” gained public admiration when it was presented in the category “Look” at the Cannes Festival in France in 2017, and deals with the story of a girl who was raped and struggled by police. with the old complaint. The book was also shown on Netflix last May.
It is expected that Ben Chania, who belongs to the generation of young Tunisian filmmakers who brought to the big screen social and political issues that were the subject of censorship before the 2011 revolution, will soon start filming a documentary about the Tunisian story called Girls of Love ”. (AFP)