Oscilloscope Laboratories announced this past week that auteur filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania’s 2017 Un Certain Regard entry at the Cannes Film Festival, Beauty and the Dogs, will be making its domestic home entertainment debut as both DVD and Blu-ray product offerings on June 26.
In one of the most competitive Un Certain Regard film collections in recent memory, Ben Hania’s Beauty and the Dogs found itself up against the likes of writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish, filmmaker Michel Franco’s April’s Daughter and writer/director Mohammad Rasoulof’s A Man of Integrity. Film critics and audiences raved about the film and the stunning performance of newcomer Mariam Al Ferjani … its inclusion in this elite group of films was no fluke.
Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania, whose previous films include the documentary, Imams Go to School, and the docu-drama/mystery, Le Challat de Tunis, seized upon an actual 2012 event in Tunis as the basis of her film.
The Arab Spring arrived, Tunisia became a free country, but that freedom was perhaps something of an illusion as those in power — those that were duty-bound to protect their fellow countrymen — use their powers for their own benefit. This is what a forward-looking young woman named Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani) discovers when she is abducted and raped on her way home from a party one evening by policemen.
Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli), who met her earlier at the party, finds her on the streets following her encounter with the “authorities,” and offers to take to her the nearby emergency room for medical treatment. The pair quickly find that there is little incentive to provide care or get to the bottom of what happened.
You need a rape-kit examination? Sorry, not without proper identification — which the police officers conveniently stole from her. Complain to the authorities? What evidence do you have of an assault, much less rape?
It is a Kafkaesque nightmare, which is all the more terrifying in that if police officers can abduct and rape a woman right off the streets, she can just as easily disappear if she presses the issue.
Beauty and the Dogs is both a social commentary — by a female Tunisian filmmaker — and a stunning thriller where Mariam’s courage is tested and where justice and her ultimate fate are in the hands of those whose job is to protect their own.
Beauty and the Dogs is presented in Arabic with optional English subtitles. Bonus features include a newly prepared video session with filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania and video essay featuring Professor Suzanne Gauch of Temple University.