From Cannes To The Oscars: ‘Four Daughters’ & ‘Mother Of All Lies’ Hit Shortlist

Laced with poignant storytelling, the kind that dives into the intricacies and complications of society are usually the films that earn a spot in the widely acclaimed Academy Awards. This year, two Arab films made major waves across the film festival circuit and now are a step closer to getting an Oscar after getting shortlisted for the 96th Academy Awards. Tunisian docu-drama ‘Four Daughters’ by Kaouther Ben Hania was shortlisted for the documentary and international feature category while the Moroccan documentary ‘The Mother of All Lies’ by Asmae El Moudir was shortlisted in the best international feature film category.

Not only was it the only Arab entry for the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Tunisian documentary and true story ‘Four Daughters’ also got the best form of recognition after receiving a standing ovation during its premiere. It places the fear and desperation of a mother front and center as it explores the anguish faced by Olfa Hamrouni whose two daughters end up joining Daesh.

What makes this film stand out is how it interplays between reality and fiction as in the documentary itself Hamrouni comes face to face with two actors who are cast as her older daughters who went to Daesh. What follows is Hamrouni and her two young daughters Eya and Tassir recalling their memories with the two older daughters and then re-enacting those memories with the two actresses. Bringing in even more of that metafictional style of experimentation, Ben Hania decided to cast Egyptian Tunisian actress Hind Sabri to play Hamrouni in scenes where the mother finds it hard to play herself.

Bringing a similar deep dive into the meaning and effect of family is “Mother Of All Lies” which explores the story of the director herself Asmae El Moudir. The documentary follows El Moudir in her search for truth regarding her family background. It takes viewers on a journey through her personal history as well as the nation’s history including the 1981 Bread Riots. As with Ben Hania’s “Four Daughters”, El Moudir also adds a touch of experimentation into her documentary by including a constructed replica of her neighborhood in the film that is replete with handmade dolls of family members.

With three months to go before the arrival of the Academy Awards, we are inching closer to finding out if these two masterpieces will win one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry.

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