Cannes Film Festival 2023: “Les Filles d’Olfa”, original and sensitive Tunisian docu-fiction about a family disrupted by Daesh

First Tunisian film in competition at Cannes since 1970, Olfa’s Daughters, by director Kaouther Ben Hania, testifies to the liveliness of a cinema that celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year. An anniversary that falls well for this first selection of the filmmaker in Cannes. It addresses the subject of the commitment of two young women within the Islamist group Daesh, which will upset a united single-parent family, within post-Ben Ali Tunisia.


Mother of four daughters in Tunisia, Olfa sees her two eldest disappear following their rallying to the Islamist group Daesh in Libya. The director Kaouther Ben Hania offers him to call on two actresses to talk about their story in a reconstruction alongside his two youngest daughters who have stayed at home. An extraordinary device then sets in, where lack competes with rebellion and hope, by questioning a Tunisian society divided between Islam and secularism.

Olfa’s Daughters opens with the introduction of the two actresses to Olfa and her daughters. Recognition immediately dawns, both in the eyes of this upset mother and in those of her children who have remained with her. From the outset, a catharsis takes place, and the objective that director Kaouther Ben Hania has set for herself to make the filmic act a therapy, even a salvation, takes shape. In her sixth feature film, she also demonstrates an art of framing and colorful harmonies of remarkable elegance and plastic beauty.

reactionary act

Olfa begins her story with that of her wedding night with a macho and violent man, whom she will quickly put in his place during a tasty episode. A strong and intelligent woman, rebellious, Olfa does not allow herself to be led by the nose, and will be able to impose herself with good sense and inflexible dexterity, while remaining within the framework of good customs and morals of Tunisian society. who are close to his heart.

She is supported by her four daughters who also denounce the criminal acts against them, committed by all these men with whom Olfa tried to make a living. Until the Arab Spring of 2011, with its democratic breath, but which would turn against it with the emergence of extremist groups, such as Daesh, the Islamic State.

Kaouther Ben Hania captures the motivations of the two eldest who will rally Daesh, in their reactionary approach to the democratic and secular spirit of the spring that is taking hold. It is in their eyes an act of rebellion. It is done first by wearing the niqab (full veil) as a sign of indiscipline and a unifier for their cause.

Then it is their disappearance forever from the family unit, publicized on Tunisian television, and the marriage to a fundamentalist imam, which will engrave in marble their rallying to Daesh, still painful today for Olfa and her younger daughters. Kaouther Ben Hania manages a film, and an eloquent demonstration, which should not leave the Cannes jury unmoved, whose verdict is expected on Saturday May 26.

The poster of "Daughters of Olfa" by Kaouther Ben Hania (2023).  (DAY2PARTY)

The sheet

Gender : Docu-fiction
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Actors: Hend Sabri, Olfa Hamrouni, Eya Chikahoui, Tayssir Chikhaoui, Nour Karoui, Ichraq Matar
Duration : 1h50
Exit : July 5, 2023
Distributer : Play2Party

Summary: The life of Olfa, Tunisian and mother of 4 daughters, oscillates between shadow and light. One day, her two eldest daughters disappear. To make up for their absence, director Kaouther Ben Hania summons professional actresses and sets up an extraordinary film system to lift the veil on the story of Olfa and her daughters. An intimate journey made of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that will question the very foundation of our societies.

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