Kaouther Ben Hania
© San Sebastian Film Festival. Photo by Gorka Bravo

Kaouther Ben Hania

I learned to create scenes like those in fiction, but with fragments of reality.

The cinema of Tunisian film director Kaouther Ben Hania is characterised by its authenticity. Straddling the line between fiction and documentary, her creations take a scathing look at our societies, without ever losing their touch of irony.

Updated on 01/02/2022

2 min

A Tunisian director born in 1977, Kaouther Ben Hania studied at the Tunis School of Arts and Cinema and the Fémis in Paris, before directing her first professional short film, Me, my Sister and the Thing (“Moi, ma sœur et la chose”), in 2006. That same year she also joined the Al Jazeera Documentary team, where she worked for one year.

After directing a second short film (Wooden Hand (“Peau de colle”), 2013), two documentaries (Imams Go to School (“Les imams vont à l’école”) , 2010; Zaineb Hates the Snow (“Zaineb takrahou ethelj”), 2016) and a docu-fiction (The Blade of Tunis (“Le challat de Tunis”), 2014), Kaouther Ben Hania directed her first fiction feature film, Beauty and the Dogs (“Aala Kaf Ifrit”), which was shown at numerous festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival in 2017.

Kaouther Ben Hania directs an incisive gaze at society. Whether it is a question of religion, freedom or relationships between men and women, the themes she addresses vary but are always handled with authenticity. This preoccupation with the truth explains her taste for documentaries and allows her to use fiction to reveal reality.

Thus The Blade of Tunis, a fictional tale that addresses the problem of machismo. Beauty and the Dogs draws its subject from a single incident, but strays from that tale to portray the multiple facets of a complex society. It is from this ambiguity between reality and fiction that Kaouther Ben Hania's cinema draws its strength.

Kaouther Ben Hania’s career has been built between France and the Arab world. While most of her creations portray contemporary Tunisian society, their themes extend far beyond its borders.

Kaouther Ben Hania speaks first and foremost as a citizen and a woman. Her first documentary, Imams Go to School, questions the relationship between religion and secularism in France. This open and frank gaze, which is her greatest strength, earned her the support of ACID (the French association of independent cinema) for The Blade of Tunis and a selection in the Un Certain Regard category at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for her first fiction feature film, Beauty and the Dogs.

The Blade of Tunis (Le Challat de Tunis) (trailer)
The Blade of Tunis (Le Challat de Tunis) (trailer)
  • 2006


    Kaouther Ben Hania directs her first professional film, Me, my Sister and the Thing, a short fiction about gender dynamics.

  • 2010


    The director releases her first documentary Imams Go to School, 75 minutes about the teachings on secularism undertaken by imam apprentices at the Grande Mosque in Paris.

  • 2014


    The release of The Blade of Tunis, a docu-fiction which attempts to unveil the mystery of an anecdote-turned-legend. She takes this as an opportunity to address the problem of everyday machismo in Tunisian society.

  • 2017


    The presentation of her first fiction feature film, Beauty and the Dogs, at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard category.

  • 2020


    She directs The Man Who Sold His Skin, presented in the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival.

The Institut français and the director.

Beauty and the Dogs (“La Belle et la Meute”) by Kaouther Ben Hania was supported by Institut français’ Fabrique Cinéma in 2015.


This programme supports young filmmakers from developing countries to help them enter the international film market.

L'institut français, LAB