Beauty and the Dogs: A Woman’s Nightmare in the Aftermath of a Brutal Rape

Fear has been, and still is, the key tool used against women as a form of oppression, especially in rape or sexual harassment cases. They always blame it on what she is wearing, or staying out late or even putting on a lot of makeup –she’s always the culprit; never the victim.

Living in a male-dominated world, women are considered a minority and often looked down upon –and that’s what Kaouther Ben Hania was trying to address in her film “Beauty and the Dogs”. The story follows Mariam, played by Mariam Al Ferjani, a young student who was raped by policemen after a university party. What started off as a fun party, and selfies with friends, turned into a waking nightmare filled with humiliation and abuse.

The director brilliantly narrated Mariam’s horrific journey to seeking justice, by dividing the film into nine sections captured in a single shot –each ending with a cliffhanger that kept the audience wanting more.

Throughout the film we rally behind Mariam and Youssef, a man she met at the party played by  Ghanem Zrelli, as she is forced to go from one police station to the other trying to document her rape. Mariam has to endure the dirty, judgemental looks that rose from what she was wearing, and Youssef accompanying her. Shamefully, Mariam was struggling like any woman in her place: either she pretends nothing happened to retain her “dignity”, or risks being looked at as a whore for fighting back.

“Beauty and the Dogs” witnesses a great performance from Mariam Al Ferjani, proving that she is a gifted actress by capturing the essence of her character and delivering a jaw-dropping performance. She cleverly transitioned from a young girl having fun, to a damaged and scared woman fighting for her rights.

People might call this a feminist movie, but it’s simply a movie about humanity and living your life with dignity.

“Beauty and the Dogs” was part of the thirty four Arabic films selected to screen in Cairo Cinema Days Festival organized by Zawya Cinema Cairo.

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