2022, Youssef Chebbi, France/Tunisia/Qatar

Director: Youssef Chebbi
Producer: Farès Ladjimi
Screenplay: Youssef Chebbi,
  François-Michel Allegrini
Cinematography: Hazem Berrabah
Editior: Valentin Féron
Music: Thomas Kuratli
Fatma Oussaifi (Fatma)
Mohamed Grayaâ (Batal)
Rami Harrabi (L’homme à la capuche)
Hichem Riahi (Lassaad)
Nabil Trabelsi (Bouhlel Jilani)
Bahri Rahali (Jilani)
Oumayma Meherzi (Lilia)

Runtime: 92 minutes
Rating: R16 Violence, suicide, offensive language & content that may disturb
Content note: Self-harm, sexual assault

The series of political uprisings that were dubbed the ‘Arab Spring’ by western media began when a vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.Throughout the 2010s, this gut-wrenching imagery of self-immolation was at the forefront of the minds of those who protested against autocracy across North Africa, the Middle East and around the world. As Vincent Bevins writes in his account of this decade of protest If We Burn, these protests often led to the opposite of what the protestors were asking.

Ashkal was made in the aftermath of this decade, where the hope for something better in Tunisia has curdled in something much worse. The film uses this context as a jumping-off point for a police procedural, where Bouazizi’s suicide is copied in a series of grizzly deaths in the Gardens of Cathage, a development started during the Revolution but left unfinished. The detectives at the centre of the film, Batal and Fatma, are tasked with investigating the social contagion of self-immolation and discover a conspiracy with political, historical and, possibly, paranormal implications.

The way Director Youssef Chebbi situates his film at the intersection of the procedural and the supernatural has drawn comparisons to spooky cop shows like The X-Files and True Detective. Given the way it applies a genre frame to a period of historic strife many will likely find it to be an interesting companion piece to Memories of Murder in our 2024 programme.

As a film that looks at the way a period of hope led to unspeakable horror, it is a captivating interpretation of (very) recent history.


Sep 23 2024


6:15 pm - 7:50 pm