Kaouther Ben Hania's The Man Who Sold His Skin gives Tunisia first nomination for an Oscar

Ahram Online , Monday 15 Mar 2021

'The Man Who Sold His Skin' was part of CineGouna SpringBoard’s projects in development selection during the 2nd edition of the Egyptian Gouna Film Festival

Kaouther Ben Hania
File Photo: Kaouther Ben Hania won a grant for 'The Man Who Sold His Skin' at 2nd Gouna Film Festival

‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’, written and directed by Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania, has been unveiled on Monday among the nominees for the 93rd Academy Awards for the best international feature film.

“Honoured to offer to Tunisia its first nomination for the Oscars for the best international feature. Unbelievable but real!” stated Kaouther Ben Hania through social media, receiving a storm of congratulating comments from filmmakers across the Arab region and the world.

The film has been shortlisted with ‘Quo Vadis, Aida?’ from Bosnia and Herzegovina; ‘Another Round’ from Denmark; ‘Better Days’ from Hong Kong; ‘Collective’ from Romania; and ‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’ from Tunisia.

The film had its world premiere as part of the Horizon section of the 77th Venice Film Festival 2020, where it won Best Film and Best Actor (Yahya Mahayni).

It won Best International Co-production at the 26th edition of France’s Lumieres Awards that ended on 19 January.

Director Kaouther Ben Hania also won the Edipo Re Award in addition to Best Arab Film in the Feature Narrative Competition of Gouna Film Festival 2020, and Best Screenplay at Stockholm Film Festival 2020.

The Man Who Sold His Skin is loosely inspired by the legend of Faust, with the script revolving around the love story of a Syrian couple, Sam Ali, portrayed by Yahya Mahayni, and his girlfriend Abeer, portrayed by Dea Liane.

In an old-fashioned romantic scene on the tram, Sam loudly declares his love in the time of revolution  — for which he is arrested and tortured — driving him to make a bargain with the devil, Jeffrey Godefroi — played by Koen De Bouw — an avantgarde Belgian artist who wants to tattoo a giant Schengen visa on Sam’s back, exhibiting him all over the world, and whose agent, Sorya — played by Monica Bellucci — is another manifestation.

Providing him with a way out of Syria — with Abeer marrying a diplomat in Belgium — the project nonetheless alienates Sam, who feels he is being treated as an art object rather than a human being. At one point he scares collectors at an auction by pretending to be a suicide bomber.

The Man Who Sold His Skin was part of CineGouna SpringBoard’s projects in development selection during the 2nd edition of the Egyptian Gouna Film Festival, where it was awarded US $10,000 from Beelink Productions.

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