Festival Fare with Alessandro: Challat of Tunis
Men really can be scum.
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Featuring: Mohamed Slim Bouchiha, Jallel Dridi, Moufida Dridi, Narimene Saidane
Production Company: Cinétéléfilms / Sister Productions
Duration: 90 mins
In Arabic With English Subtitles
Reviewed By Alessandro Hutt
Sexism exists in any country, but Challat of Tunis demonstrates that Tunisia is one of the worse countries for it. Writer and director Kaouther Ben Hania travels the streets looking for info on “The Challat” of Tunis, a man who attacked 11 separate women with a razor blade while riding a motorbike. But there is no definite evidence on whether or not he exists. Is he only an urban legend? Were there more than one Challat? Hania sets out to find the true man behind the Challat myth, and soon enough a man claiming to be him pops up, and the facts seem to back his story…
As the Challat chase unfolds, the rampant and ever present sexism of Tunisian men is shown to the world. But here’s the kicker – this is a mockumentary. While the Challat was a real rumour that circulated around Tunisia, Hania has used a constructed narrative here to highlight the real issues that run throughout her own country.
It’s most disturbing when people who aren’t in on the joke discuss their thoughts on the role of women. A video game made from the killer’s point of view is widely distributed – and liked. When presented to a religious leader he praises the game for advocating “proper attire” for women. Men on the street say that any woman who is not dressed moderately deserves to be slashed by Challat. A lot of the men take pride is claiming to be him. In fact, a lot of respect is given to the Challat. Yet when Hania has the gall to question the true motives of these men they suddenly seem less sure of themselves.
Even if this isn’t a documentary by definition, it is an eye opener to say the least. After all, it wouldn’t be hard to believe if this was a real film. It’s telling that our minds can easily see this as something completely real – if we weren’t given the message that it’s not. The discussions Hania has with Jellal, the man who claims to be Challat, are the only moments that seem out of place. That and an odd moment with an device named the “Virgin-O-Meter.” Other than those silly moments, this is a chilling film about an endemically sexist nation. This is satire with bite and purpose, and leaves us with something to think about.
Facebook (French Language): https://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Le-Challat-de-Tunis-شلاط-تونس/482564365175238