A Sly Film on Art and Immigration: NPR


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Sam (Yahya Mahaini) agrees to tattoo his back with a Schengen visa, the document that allows free movement between European countries, in The man who sold his skin.

Samuel Goldwyn / The Buck Films


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Samuel Goldwyn / The Buck Films


Sam (Yahya Mahaini) agrees to tattoo his back with a Schengen visa, the document that allows free movement between European countries, in The man who sold his skin.

Samuel Goldwyn / The Buck Films

If any inevitable story is this century, it is definitely a migration. This topic has spawned a lot of newscasts, books, movies and TV shows that require true imagination to find an invigorating angle on such an outdated and challenging topic.

That is why I was surprised and pleased The man who sold his skinFunny, touching, and tapering film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best International Film. Created by Tunisian writer and director Kawthar Ben Hania, the film weaves between satire and human political awareness to create an original tale of art, privilege, freedom and identity.

Winning newcomer Yahya Mahaini plays Sam Ali, a handsome young Syrian man who is madly in love with his girlfriend Abeer (Dia Lian). But when the Assad regime dumped Sam for something trivial, he was forced to flee to Lebanon. He is burning to get to Belgium, where Abeer has moved with the Syrian diplomat she married, but he cannot get a visa.

Sam’s situation looked hopeless until he crept into a hatch at the Beirut fair hoping to get sponge-free food. Once there, he is arrested by a charming art dealer who introduced him to Geoffrey Godfroy, a world-famous artist played by Belgian superstar Quinn de Boe. Jeffrey specializes in brilliant business selling in the millions and seems to epitomize Oscar Wilde’s definition of irony as the one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

While sipping drinks, Jeffrey proposes a deal that allows Sam access to Abeer. Using Sam’s back as his painting, Jeffrey created a large tattoo depicting the Schengen visa, the document that allows free movement between European countries. In return, he gave Sam a portion of the profits – and because Sam is now an expensive work of art – he brought it to Belgium. There, Sam spends his time on display in a museum, searching for Abeer. It finally appears free.

Of course, when someone says it is the Devil and offers you a necklace, the word “Faustian” comes to mind. Even when Jeffrey delivers everything he promised, Sam’s supposed freedom finds him pressed in crazy directions. Among the forces pulling him are Abeer Al-Muhareb’s husband, bossy museum directors, vulgar art collectors, internet trolls, groups of Syrian refugees who want to use him as a symbol, and his mother, who has returned to the war-ravaged city of Raqqa, who will leave her pain. Burnt and shy.

While The man who sold his skin It’s a good movie, it’s not without flaws: The stimulating love story is a bit traditional, and planning in the shadows is pretty simple. Nevertheless, the film is impressive for its wit and tact. Ben Hania has a light touch. It leaves us to notice the visual similarity between Sam’s time in prison and the world of the show. Meticulously evading common misconceptions about abused immigrants, she intelligently introduces us to a refugee who feels trapped in his life in five-star hotels and room service caviar.

Now, in real life, Belgian artist Wim Delphoy tattooed a man named Tim Steiner, making it artistic work. In Bin Haniyeh’s hands, this striking conceptual idea takes on a richer meaning. Not only does Sam become a commodity, but when he becomes a commodity, he has more rights. As an asylum seeker, he cannot enter Europe, but as a piece of art goods he can. He has more value in the prosperous West as a subject than as a man. As such, Sam has become a metaphor for how immigrants are transformed into things defined by the meanings we impose on them they Rather than the ones they might be creating for themselves.

In the end, The man who sold his skin It is all about Sam trying to stop being an object and start being a man writing his own story instead of telling him about it through a tattoo on his back.


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