Beauty and the Dogs is a very timely and very taut Tunisian #MeToo movie. The entire film is just nine shots, each a slice of the harrowing story of a young woman raped by policemen and trying to bring charges against them for it. There is a very Kafka-esque feeling to the whole ordeal. She can’t get medical attention without her ID, but she lost it during the rape, and she has to go to the police station to report it before she can go to the doctor, and everyone along the way just wants her to let it go for any number of reasons. It is horrifying, but she’s a fighter and so it is ultimately a #GirlPower flick!
The film begins with Mariam getting ready for a party with her college friends. She’s happy and silly and soon catches the eye of a handsome young man, Youssef. But when they leave the party to go for a walk on the beach, her happiness is destroyed. There she is raped by two policeman, while Youssef is forced to pay them extortion money. And in the aftermath she’s forced to confront the misogyny and corruption of the whole Tunisian police system. Trying to get help from the very institution that assaulted her, she is threatened and even beaten by a group of horrible men who only want her to go away. Youssef is there by her side urging her to go forward with her case, but nearly everyone in the police station is trying to beat her down with verbal threats and physical intimidation. They mis-write her statement, lie to her, and threaten her with arrest. And all the while the men who raped her are walking around the station still free to abuse her.
Beauty and the Dogs is not an easy film to watch. Since it is nine long takes, you feel like you’re there with Mariam every step of the way. Actress Mariam Al Ferjani captures the pain and fear and anger of her character extremely well. And you really just want to jump through the screen and punch these horrible men. It would be easy to see this film and pretend that it couldn’t happen here, but misogyny and systemic corruption are sadly universal. The film is “based on a true story,” and what a heroic young woman she must have been to stand up to those bullies. I recommend this to foreign film lovers, feminists, and young women looking for inspiration. You will be angry.