Premiered and awarded at the Abu Dhabi Film Fest 2012 “Manmutesh” or Hidden Beauties, directed by award-winning director Nouri Bouzid, is the story of two young women in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution.
Zeinab (Nour Mziou) and Aisha (Sohir Ben Amara) are best friends and stuck in the turmoil of the revolution, where women fought equally to men just to be faced with the new contradictions of an emerging political Islam. In the uncertainty of the future and the fresh wounds of the revolution Zeinab and Aisha fight for their emancipation and freedom of choice.
While Zeinab is aspiring fashion designer supporting herself as a waitress, Aisha is the accidental head of the household providing for her sisters and grandfather, working in the kitchen catacombs of a local café. Both women are faced with men in their lives forcing decisions upon them in the very same moment Tunisia is fighting against the very same oppression. Aisha is pressured by her manager to take of the veil while Zeinab is forced into the veil by her fiancé and family. The plight of women is envisioned by this extreme pressure to veil and undress women based on the wishes and needs of the men in their lives.
Hamza (Bahram Aloui), Zeinab’s brother and Aisha’s former love, returns home after the jails have been opened during the revolution. Angry and filled with hate, he represents the perspective robbed youth that found refuge in fanatic Islamism. He is caught between his old self and the new fanaticism he has acquired in prison. His conflict shows in his relation with Aisha, his former fiancé, who he tries to forcefully pull towards his conservatism as well as his sister, whose obedience he demands.
“Hidden Beauties” is as contemporary as it can be and unfortunately reveals the double standards of Arab societies, be it in Tunisia or elsewhere. The pretentious morality that is forced upon women and turning them into objects without a free will is what the two young women are fighting to the backdrop of the revolution.