Beauty and the Dogs (2017): Tunisian Kaouther Ben Hania’s Tale of Rape

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania is the only Arab director in the official selection at this year’s Cannes Film Fest.  The fact that she is a woman makes it all the more impressive.

Her first feature, Beauty and the Dogs, which screens in the Un Certain Regard, deals with the rape of a young woman by policemen outside a beachfront nightclub in Tunisia, based on a true case that sparked outrage.

Making Social Issues Films like Beauty and the Dog

Kaouther Ben Hania: The real rape case that happened in 2012 in Tunis made a big impression on me. I was struck by the courage of this girl who persisted in suing the policemen who raped her and I thought it would make a really good story for a movie.

Film’s structure: Nine Chapters

KBH: I wanted to shoot in long takes, so every chapter is one take. That’s because I think real time immerses the audience into something like real life, very strong emotionally. I was interested in telling the story of one night, and in what to show and what not to show — you don’t see the rape, for example. I also wanted this movie to be like tunnel: a long night, until the morning light. The thriller, and even horror, aspects are because of the tension and type of feeling you would experience in this situation. It’s both horrible and real. For me it was an element that could help strengthen the empathic connection with the protagonist.

Film Reflecting Tunisia’s Politics

KBH: The policemen are trying to find a way to make the protagonist stop persisting in her accusations. They want to shut her up. But there is no longer a dictatorship in Tunisia. Under the dictatorship, police were more violent and were more free to do whatever they wanted. Now it’s the same policemen, but they know they can’t behave the same way as before. Also, this film could not have been made before the 2011 revolution.

About the Director

The director has previously made other social problems films, Imams Go to School, Challat of Tunis, and Zaineb Hates the Snow.