“Four Daughters” by Kaouther Ben Hania: How does Islamist brainwashing work?

26 May 2023 News   574  

Based on the true story of a family tragedy that shook Tunisia in 2014: that of Olfa Hamrouni and her 4 daughters, two of whom were indoctrinated by ISIS, Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Olfa’s Daughters” brilliantly and insightfully dissects the indoctrination process through which Islamists brainwash the socially and psychologically fragile.

By Atmane Tazaghart and Nicolas Chene

Thanks to an innovative narrative, halfway between documentary and fiction, this film, both sober and moving, has succeeded in establishing a captivating play of mirrors between the real-life characters of Olfa and her daughters and their fictional doubles on screen.

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This “mise en abyme” gave the film an irresistible ripple effect, breaking down the “fourth wall” with the audience, to use the Brechtian phrase coined by the director. By creating a “film within a film”, in the form of mock rehearsals, the director – who sees herself as the standard-bearer of a Tunisian “new wave” – was able to curb the heaviness of the tragic, giving her work an epic soul, thanks to a subtle blend of striking spontaneity and raw humanism.