Cannes: Arab Films ‘Four Daughters’ and ‘The Mother of All Lies’ Share Top Documentary Prize

Two documentaries by Arab women directors have jointly won this year’s L’Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) award for best documentary at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters and The Mother of All Lies from first-time Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir were announced as this year’s best documentary winners at a ceremony in Cannes on Saturday.

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Both films use experimental cinematic techniques to explore stories of trauma from their home countries. In The Mother of All Lies, El Moudir explores her family’s history and the stories and lies told surrounding the upheaval and violence of the 1981 Bread Riots in Casablanca. With no archive footage or even photographs, to draw on, she painstakingly recreates, from memory, her family’s old apartment and the old Casablanca neighborhood in the form of a miniature set on a soundstage, with figurines to represent her family members.

In Four Daughters, Ben Hania focuses on the story of Olfa Hamrouni and her children. Her eldest two daughters disappeared as teenagers and may have joined ISIS. Ben Hania casts actors to portray the missing daughters in the documentary, to re-enact the family’s devastating experience of loss.

Winning the L’Oeil d’or honor automatically qualifies both films for Oscar consideration. Ben Hania’s last feature, The Man Who Sold His Skin, picked up an Academy Award nomination for best international film in 2021.

It was the second prize in as many days for El Moudir, who picked up the best directing honor for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section for The Mother of All Lies on Friday. The Mother of All Lies came to Cannes without distribution in place but sale group Autlook should have little problem finding a buyer now for the critically acclaimed and double-award-winning drama.

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