Four Daughters review – fact and fiction mix in mother’s heartbreak over Islamic State

Estimated read time 2 min read


This film is emotionally touching despite its flaws, as it follows the story of Olfa Hamrouni, a divorced woman from Sousse, Tunisia, and her two daughters who left to join ISIS in Syria. The director, Kaouther Ben Hania, uses real people in key roles, with Olfa’s remaining daughters Eya and Tayssir playing themselves, while actors depict the missing daughters, Ghofrane (Ichraq Matar) and Rahma (Nour Karoui).

Although she has not disappeared and is a strong presence on screen, Olfa is portrayed by actress Hend Sabri, creating a slightly confusing situation. The film interviews both the real-life individuals and the actors playing them, and then shows scenes where Olfa corrects the actors. Actor Majd Mastoura portrays Olfa’s distant and abusive father, highlighting how disturbed he becomes by embodying a malicious character from the real world.

Ben Hania embarked on this process with an open mind and without a clear understanding of how this approach would benefit the case. It is uncertain how much this approach truly sheds light on the situation and could potentially be ineffective in determining the exact time and process in which the two young women were radicalized. Attempting to understand the thoughts and motives of the two women through actorly intuition may not provide helpful information. A TV discussion panel clip of Olfa passionately denouncing politicians and blaming their tolerance of jihadist imams after the Arab Spring for her daughters’ radicalization offers a insightful and clever perspective that is not typically obtained through docudrama.

The female characters in the movie hold a strong presence that garners sympathy from the audience. The introduction of the real-life counterparts to the actresses portraying their sisters adds a mysterious and poignant element, as we bear witness to their amazement and emotional connection based on their striking similarities. It also creates an unusual sensation of the four-way sisterly dynamic being rekindled through a partially fictionalized lens.


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