Review: Beauty and the Dogs – Aala Kaf Ifrit (2017)

Beauty and the Dogs – Aala Kaf Ifrit (2017)

Directed by: Kaouther Ben Hania | 100 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli, Noomen Hamda, Mohamed Akkari, Chedly Arfaoui, Anissa Daoud, Mourad Gharsalli, Neder Ghouati

Isn’t it time to put the word ‘revolution’ in the trash? Not that there are no more revolutions, but every time such a revolution creates expectations that it can never live up to. Where one hopes for a total revolution, such a revolution often turns out to be based on an undemocratic change of political power. Those new rulers in turn are hindered by official institutions that mainly want everything to stay the same. For example, a corrupt and misogynistic police force will not change overnight into a corps of empathetic officers with a flower in the buttonhole and a listening ear for victims.

For those who survived this dry intro, we move on to ‘Beauty and the Dogs’, a Tunisian crime drama in 9 chapters. Based on true events, the film tells the sad story of the beautiful Mariam who, during a party, decides to go for a walk on the beach with a cute boy. When a group of cops shows up, it all goes wrong. Three officers rape Mariam and then run away. Mariam first goes to a hospital and then wants to file a report with the police. But despite the fact that Tunisia has recently experienced its revolution, the police force does not consist of empathetic officers with a flower in the buttonhole and a listening ear for victims.

In ‘Beauty and the Dogs’ we follow Mariam’s rampage. First the extreme bureaucracy of the hospital, then the journey from police post to police post, from macho cop to macho cop. Mariam is insulted, threatened and mocked, with the aim of withdrawing the report. Well played by debutante Mariam Al Ferjani, we see how our heroine grows more and more desperate and loses heart.

It is a pity that the misery continues just a little too long. After an hour we as the public are completely mortified and we have long understood that the rape stands for something bigger: the misery inflicted on ordinary Tunisians by his own institutions. Moreover, it is all very black and white here, with the big-eyed Al Ferjani as a helpless victim and (almost) all the cops as potential rapists.

It’s all intense, you always sympathize with poor Mariam and the urgency jumps off the screen. In any case, the Tunisian revolution has yielded something: a nice film. A meager yield, indeed.

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