Selected as one of 3 films selected for a new initiative called “Final Cut In Venice,” dedicated to “supporting African films in the post-production phase,” is Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania’s “Le Challat de Tunis” (“Challat of Tunis”), which is based on a true 2003 story of a mysterious man on a motorcycle, who rode through the streets of Tunis (the country’s capital) carrying a razor blade, on a mission: to slash the butts of women he came across on the city’s streets, whom he felt weren’t dressed appropriately.
Yes, you read that correctly.
They called him “Le Challat,” which is most likely a bastardization of the word “Gillette” – the famous razor brand.
From one neighborhood to the next, rumors about the mysterious man started to spread. Some said he was a religious nut, others said he was the member of an inactive cell of Al-Qaida intent on punishing women whom he felt openly mocked its ideology. People also said that “Le Challat” was on some kind of a revenge mission, because his own wife cheated on him. And with the threat of “Le Challat” hanging over them, Tunisian women even considered changing the way they dressed, to essentially meet the slasher’s expectations of how a Tunisian woman should carry herself: no more tight jeans, or mini skirts, nothing showing skin, etc. He was on everyone’s lips and minds, but no one had ever seen this man face-to-face.
Years later, director Ben Hania took up the challenge of investigating the legend of “Le Challat” on film, in the feature project “Le Challat de Tunis.” The film was selected to open the ACID program at last year’s edition of the Cannes International Film Festival. ACID is a French film directors association seeking to promote the distribution of independent films.
Its ACID screening was generally well-received, albeit with a few concerns. Here’s a piece of Variety’s review: “… Mockumentaries generally have culturally specific elements that play best to local audiences, and Kaouther Ben Hania’s hilarious and acerbic “Challat of Tunis” is a prime example. Ostensibly about the helmer’s search for a man who slashed 11 women from his motorbike back in 2003, the pic shines a discomfiting light on Tunisia’s attitudes toward women, using a fake-docu approach that many outside the Arab world won’t fully grasp, at least at the start. Foreknowledge should ease any hesitation at laughter, which means critical hype will be vital, though the film will work best with diasporan communities at targeted showcases.
Director Hania planned to make a straightforward documentary on “Le Challat,” but, following the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, she rethought the project as more of a mock-documentary, using the “Challat” story to interrogate the sexual politics of her newly democratic homeland.
The film contains fake and real interviews with slasher victims, investigators, lawyers and regular folks, as it narrows in on the title character, who turns out to be “a hotheaded mommy’s boy who models himself on Al Pacino in ‘Scarface’,” as The Hollywood Reporter’s review states.
No USA playdates have been announced yet, but a new trailer for the film has been released for the film’s theatrical release in France, which is set for April 1. Watch it below – sadly there are no English subtitles, but the images tell the tale.