The Man Who Sold His Skin collides refugee struggles, contemporary art

The Man Who Sold His Skin
(Photos: The Man Who Sold His Skin press kit)
AMMAN — Following the release of the riveting The Beauty and the Dogs (2017), biting director Kaouther Ben Hania, whose projects are some of the most exciting of the new Maghrebian generation, is back with her fifth feature film titled, The Man Who Sold His Skin.اضافة اعلان

Screened at the second edition of Amman International Film Festival — Awal Film, The Man Who Sold His Skin follows the story of Sam Ali, a young Syrian man condemned to exile in Lebanon, who is pursued by police for committing an impulsively romantic act.

Playing picnic at an art gallery buffet, Sam Ali, then a refugee, meets a world-renowned contemporary artist who makes him a proposal worthy of Mephistopheles. If he accepts to be his new work of art by having his back tattooed, the doors of the world will open to him.

(Photos: The Man Who Sold His Skin press kit)

As a destitute and undocumented Syrian refugee, Sam Ali can hardly travel legally in the world. But by becoming the Western artist’s commodity (and no longer a person), all customs will open to him.

Based on a Kafkaesque story that revisits the myth of Faust in a modern way, Ben Hania signs an acerbic drama — at times tinged with dark humor — of remarkable intelligence, burning under the guise of a tragedy.

The filmmaker depicts western societies that are engulfed in cynicism of the worst kind and emphasizes their dehumanization of others with metaphor.
At one point, Sam Ali is asked to leave his skin in the jails of the Syrian regime.

The Man Who Sold His Skin intends to show how the logic of today’s world is nonsensical and excludes the notion of humanity.

Can one monetize human life? Can we sell ourselves to save ourselves? The retelling of the myth of Faust takes on its full meaning when one realizes that Ali’s story is as credible as it is philosophically diabolical.

And Kaouther Ben Hania shows that these days, objects have finally become more valuable than men, that a commodity can circulate more freely than a man, and that it is easier to welcome an object with millions than a human.
The Man Who Sold His Skin asks many questions and follows many lines of thought.

(Photos: The Man Who Sold His Skin press kit)

We must salute the care Ben Hania takes with image and decor. In the manner of her narrative that deals with art issues, she transforms narrative situations into a life-size pictorial work.

The lights, the colors, and the camera positions demonstrate her aesthetic, highlighting her reflection on modern art.

And often throughout the movie, she utilizes the rebellious voice she used in The Beauty and the Dogs.

Staging a man who sells his skin requires a lot of courage. It reveals in soft words the unbearable sacrifices made by many immigrants to save themselves from war, deprivation, or prostitution.

The filmmaker questions the notion of freedom, which is as much flouted in these chaotic migratory paths as in torn countries. In a way, The Man Who Sold His Skin borrows from the paradoxes of Kafka.

If the film asserts itself as a humanist and social drama, it does not shy away from the thriller genre.

The true psychopath remains the art market that pushes so much extravagance, regardless of ethics.

What marks the artist successful is transforming ordinary things into profitable works. It makes us think of the Our Body exhibition, which was banned in France. The project, certainly aesthetically beautiful, was based on a combination of fascination and repulsion, staging bodies in sexual postures.
In the same way, Kaouther Ben Hania depicts in the film the ease with which western societies can yield weakened and manipulated beings.

This confused feeling of fascination and rejection is reflected in the deliberate choice to stage young Sam in an almost sensual way. The director evokes the sexual ambivalence of the artist and his wife, admirably interpreted by Monica Bellucci, towards this young man whose nudity is disturbing.

The Man Who Sold His Skin is thus a critical conversation between two media of expression — cinema and installation art.

The film is Oscar-nominated and won the Ecumenical film prize and the Andreas Award at the Norwegian International Film Festival. It also won best actor in the Horizons section at the 77th Venice International Film Festival and was awarded Best Arab Film at El Gouna Film Festival. It stars Yahya Mahayni, Dea Liane, Koen De Bouw, Monica Bellucci, and Saad Lostan.

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