In 2015, two of Olfa Hamrouni’s daughters (who were 15 and 16 at the time) disappeared, leaving behind two younger sisters and a mother with a broken heart. In this film, we attempt to piece together what happened to Olfa’s daughters, with the help of two professional actors who enter the family to play the roles of the two missing girls. By reenacting their childhoods, and the situations that led up to the disappearance, the women explore their shared trauma, and the deep love and sadness within their family.
Directed by Kaouther Ben-Hania (Oscar nominated in 2020 for The Man Who Sold His Skin), this documentary-fiction hybrid is this year’s Tunisian submission to the Academy Awards. The film premiered In Competition at Cannes, where it was one of just two documentaries – the first two documentaries to play in competition since 2004. It was also selected to play in the Special Presentations program at TIFF.
This is a documentary unlike anything you’ve seen before. Life recreated, and situations revisited and explored as a form of therapy for those who are still processing the dissolution of their family. In reenacting this story using professional actors alongside the remaining family members, director Ben-Hania digs into something much deeper thematically. Four Daughters looks into gender roles as an act of performance. In Tunisia, being a woman comes with a series of expectations of how one should act. In a harshly patriarchal society, to be a daughter, a sister, a mother, and just a woman existing in general, each role is a part to play, and one must play the part. But when life itself becomes a performance, where is the line drawn between someone’s true self and the person they act as in order to fit in?