The 2020 Venice Film Festival is surprisingly political this year, with a slew of documentaries —environmental doc I Am Greta, Luke Holland’s Holocaust documentary Final Account — and features — Jasmila Zbanic’s Quo Vadis, Aida? about the Srebrenica massacre, and Regina King’s civil rights drama One Night in Miami — taking center stage at an event often more famous for its red carpet glamor than its soap-box messaging.
The ongoing civil war in Syria, the plight of war refugees, and the intersection of First World commerce with Third World suffering are in focus in The Man Who Sold His Skin, a new feature from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, which premieres in Venice’s Orizzonti section on Saturday.
It follows Sam Ali, a Syrian man trying to escape to rejoin his lover in Paris who finds himself stranded in Lebanon. A chance meeting with a famous American artist provides a way out. He sells his skin — letting the artist turn Ali’s back into a tattooed work of art. Suddenly, the unwanted, undocumented refugee is a hugely valuable commodity in the art market. Yahya Mahayni stars as Ali, Koen De Bouw as the famous artist, and Monica Bellucci as Soraya Waldy, a high-society gallery owner.
In the exclusive first-look clip from the film below, we meet Ali after he gatecrashes a posh art show, only to be shamed by the gallery owner (Bellucci) who thinks he is only there to freeload from the buffet.
Originally a documentary filmmaker —with Le Challat de Tunis (2013) and Zaineb Hates the Snow (2016) — Ben Hania made her feature debut with the crime thriller Beauty and the Dogs, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes in 2017. The Man Who Sold His Skin is her first film to screen in Venice.
Tanit Films, Kwassa Films, Cinétéléfilms, Laika Film & Television, and Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion produced The Man Who Sold His Skin in co-production with Metafora Media, Sunnyland Film, Film i Väst, VOO & BE TV, and Istiqial Films. Bac Films is handling worldwide sales.
Check out the clip from The Man Who Sold His Skin below.