Four Daughters Review: The Construction of Different Realities as a Form of Transgressive Poetics by Gigi Wong

Four Daughters is an emotional and poignant docudrama that restages a tragic news story in Tunisia with professional actors. The film tells the story of Olfa Hamrouni and her four daughters, which made international headlines because the two eldest – Rahma and Ghofrane – left their family and decided to join the Islamic State in Libya. Director Kaouther Ben Hania deliberately traces and elucidates Hamrouni’s heart-breaking family life through reenacting a series of significant events. Ben Hania intricately interweaves fiction with life by having actors play eldest daughters Rahma and Ghofrane, who have become wives and fighters for the Islamic State, while asking Eya and Tayssir, the two remaining sisters in the family to appear as themselves.

The onscreen presence of these women not only engages with the film’s own fictionality, but also elicits an enduring pain that is manifested in racialized accounts of femininity and motherhood. How does one’s choice or lack of choice, affect other lives so deeply? For Hamrouni, Eya and Tayssir, this painful question has yet to be answered.

This is why it is such a moving moment when Eya and Tayssir are introduced to the two actresses who play their sisters. There is a profound sense of hope and liberation when we see Hamrouni, Eya and Tayssir bonding with their new family members and exploring a new form of cinematic kinship.

The film’s synthesis of fiction and realism underlines the undying bond that exists between mothers and their children, sisters and their siblings. It is also a testament to their refusal to give up on keeping that bond alive, against all odds.

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