Review: Four Daughters (2023)

Official Synopsis:
 Between light and darkness stands Olfa, a Tunisian woman and the mother of four daughters. One day, her two older daughters disappear. Filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania invites professional actresses Nour Karoui and Ichrak Matar to fill in their absence.

Reenactments in documentaries are tricky. More often then not they're stilted and unnatural. Sometimes I wonder if they're even necessary to tell certain stories. This one included, but what Hania does here is very unique. Olfa's oldest daughters are not here to speak for themselves. Blending actresses with their very real younger sisters (Eya and Tassir), reliving happier times and sad ones is a bold choice. Even Olfa herself has an actress portraying her (Hind Sabri) for scenes she finds too traumatic to relive. And even though they are reenacting moments, it's not in the traditional sense we see them. The real Olfa often lingers far off in the shot. Sometimes the crew or Eya or Tassir are giving direction. It's almost a combined lesson in filmmaking and trauma therapy.

And at times I did feel awkward watching these scenes, because they felt so personal. Are these supposed to be for my eyes? Ben Hania thinks so. It was slightly hard to follow at first but even though it didn't always work for me, I can't stop thinking about it.

Olfa is a fascinating woman. She's muses about having to "be a man" to protect her mother and herself as a young woman. One of the scenes shows her wedding night where her new husband starts getting rough with her, and she in turn punches him in the face, wipes his bloody nose on the sheets and passes it to her relatives as "proof" they consummated their marriage. I loved the audacity, but the film also doesn't absolve Olfa of her faults. That temper of hers affects her daughters later on, and in ways that are not as amusing as that.

The 3rd act of the film gets into the "why" of her daughters going missing, and it's very heavy. I knew why before starting the film, so I didn't get the gut punch that many other reviewers mention. So for that, I recommend starting this film knowing as little as possible.

This is Tunisia's submission for Best International Film and Best Documentary Feature at this years Oscars, and I hope it's nominated for both. I'll be thinking about this for a while. Four Daughters is currently on the festival circuit and is available to rent on VOD. 

Grade: A-


  1. Wow, this sounds really fascinating! I haven't heard about this (probably got lost in the shuffle of film festival + award season stuff, ahah), so thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  2. I have heard of this filmmaker I saw one of her shorts in the Miu Miu short films series. I'm intrigued by this as I think I added it to my watchlist.


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