By Roger Costa
ASHKAL: THE TUNISIAN INVESTIGATION
One of the most shocking films to ever screen at Cannes, Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi’s disturbing thriller follows two police officers, Fatma and Batal in search of answers for a bizarre crime spree where people are setting themselves on fire. Using as a backdrop the 2011 Arab uprising, the director makes a strong, horrifying political statement reflecting on the country’s recent events and transformations.
Filmed with an immersive abstract visual language, observing the half-constructed abandoned buildings, the grey landscapes of the city elevating the sense of morbid in the narrative, Chebbi crafts an assured and potent directorial debut.
As the pair of law enforcement deeply investigate the disturbing connected deaths, a case of corruption involving authorities comes to light, forcing them to analyze their integrity and commitment to the truth.
Actress Fatma Oussaifi gives a profoundly complex and mysterious performance as the protagonist, literally setting the screen on fire with her firm presence, especially at those silent moments and close-ups which speaks volumes.
Based on actual events, the film casts a spell on the viewer with its intriguing narrative aesthetic and propulsive suspense.
(Yellow Veil Pictures. Opens Friday, August 18th at Roxy Cinema NYC and Lumiere Music Hall LA)