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The Man Who Sold His Skin

L’Homme Qui a Vendu Sa Peau

Kaouther Ben Hania | 2021 | 104 MINS
Tunisia / France / Belgium/ Germany / Sweden / Turkey | Subtitles
This film uses the tension between art and commerce as powerful fuel for a sobering story about freedom and human dignity. A Syrian refugee turns his body into an artwork, but at what cost?

In Detail

Sam Ali, a Syrian young man, took refuge in Lebanon to flee the Syrian civil war. There, he meets Jeffrey Godefroi, a famous tattoo artist, who makes Mr Ali’s back his canvas for a piece of work. Soon, Mr Ali becomes a living work of art, worth an astronomical sum on the art market.

Collectors are interested, auction goes up, human rights activists are outraged. Mr Ali must get out of the predicament he is in; the man who sold his skin, Tunisia’s ambitious entry from female writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania offers a provocative contemporary take on a Faustian bargain.

An audacious mix of drama, tragedy, romance, satire and dark humour, the plot centres on Sam (newcomer Yahya Mahayni), a displaced Syrian with a chip on his shoulder who allows a cryptic art-world guru to use his back as a canvas. Paradoxically, it becomes easier for him to travel to Europe as an artwork than as a refugee. But what he thought of as freedom turns out to be anything but.

This film was originally scheduled to premiere at the Chichester Film Festival but was withdrawn by the distributor.

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