A chilling new film inspired by the true story of Tim Steiner
Director Kaouther Ben Hania and actor Yahya Mahayni delve into their film The Man Who Sold His Skin, which is inspired by the true story of Tim Steiner
, the brilliant, Oscar-nominated film from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, could almost have been calledThe Man Who Sold His Soul. Yahya Mahayni stars as Sam Ali, a Syrian refugee who enters into a deeply unsettling arrangement with Jeffrey Godefroi (Koen De Bouw), a rich and wilfully provocative artist. Having fled to safety in Beirut, educated Sam finds himself stuck in a mundane job vaccinating chickens, but Jeffrey and his chilly assistant Soraya (Monica Bellucci) offer him a way out. If Jeffrey turns Sam into a living work of art by tattooing an EU visa on his back – an image, of course, that is cruelly loaded with irony – they will sort the paperwork so Sam can follow his former fiancée Abeer (Dea Liane) to Brussels. The catch? Sam will have to sit still and silent in an art gallery each day as part of Jeffrey’s latest exhibition.
Mahayni’s beautifully nuanced performance conveys all of Sam’s desperation, bravery, debasement and determination. Sam doesn’t agree to Jeffrey’s deal naively, but neither does he fully appreciate its potential to dehumanise him. “He’s under duress of circumstances,” the actor says, pointing out that Sam’s tipping point comes during a Zoom call with Abeer, when he sees his former lover reluctantly embracing the wealthy man she was forced to marry. “We’ve all been in positions where we’ve taken decisions which are contrary to our principles but which we justified as a means to an end. Sam knows he is going to be selling part of his dignity, but he didn’t realise this would happen as early as it does.” Indeed, it happens even before Sam is installed as a living, breathing artwork in the Belgian gallery. During a pre-exhibition photo shoot, he is told the photographer has no time to take a few extra shots for Sam to send to his mother. “And then bit by bit he realises, ‘You know, I’m actually nothing in these people’s eyes,’” Mahayni says. “He realises the only value that they attribute to him is the work on his back.”
The Man Who Sold HisSkin, 2020(Film still) Read more: AnOtherMagazine »
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