Writer Kaouther Ben Hania along with her co-director, Khaled Walid Barsaoui tell a deep and harsh story rarely discussed in the Arab World and that is of rape in Beauty and the Dogs.
Mariam (Mariam Al Ferjani) is a young, attractive Tunisian woman who just wants to go dancing for a night with her friends, when she meets Youssef (Ghanem Zrelli) a handsome stranger in the club who she takes a stroll with in an attempt to get to know the young man. Unfortunately, the very next thing we see is a frantic Mariam being taken to the hopsital by Youssef.
What we eventually learn, is that Mariam was raped and the nurse won’t help her without proper identification. Even worse, hospital attendants are asking ridiculous questions turning them away, directing them to an over crowded clinic that makes a VA hospital look like a PPO.
No one is willing to help except a journalist who wants to put her on camera to tell her story, which isn’t because of her altruistic nature. Various doctors and nurses don’t seem to care as she physically looks okay, but laws prevent doctors who are not forensic specialists to examine her and she is constantly turned away when they find out who the perpetrators are…those who are there to protect and serve the people. Her rapists are POLICE OFFICERS!
Everyone’s hands are tied as Mariam does not know her national ID number and in a world where the police are above the law, no one wants any sort of trouble. Even as Mariam files a report the police want all sorts of personal questions like who her family is, was she drinking alcohol (a sin in Islam) and even as she tells her story, they seem uninterested in the well-being of the victim, but use accusatory language as if she brought this upon herself and not even taking down the report. At the second police station, they dismiss her and tell her to go home, think it over for a week and come back if she still feels the same way.
By chance, Mariam finds her belongings and her rapists at the police station and is able to be examined by a forensic doctor and the police officer interfere with the exam by intimidating the physician.
The rest of the film is filled with the feeling of shame, distrust, the dehumanization of a person’s worth through various forms of intimidation, and the seeking of justice in a world where such concepts don’t exist for women, even after the Arab Spring.
Beauty and the Dogs is a powerful film that needed to be made and is even stronger without showing the horrible act of rape but instead depicting the psychological damage in dealing with the aftermath. Unfortunately, a couple of things were very distracting, including the numbering of the scenes. Those distractions are what caused the lower rating from a 4 to a 3.
The story will definitely shock a western audience who think police officers in the west have too much power, but when in various parts of the world where those powers go unchecked this is a perfect depiction of what happens in those regions. I remember growing up hearing stories like this all the time where a family member was arrested and beaten to an unrecognizable pulp because of a case of mistaken identity, and once the superior officer noticed the mistake let him go without even an apology.
Beauty and the Dogs opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday March 23, 2018.
Beauty and the Dogs
- Overall Score
Beauty and the Dogs is a powerful story that needed to be told, but a couple of serious distractions detract from the film, pulling you out of the story.