The Tunisian film 'The Man Who Sold His Skin' is up for the Best International film Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards.
An honour for female writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania who sees the Oscar nod as a source of African pride.
She was pleasantly surprised when she first heard the news.
"No, I actually, I wanted to watch it with my producer and we weren't sure, you know, about the time. So I told him open the streaming video. You know, he told me, 'No, it's earlier.' I told them open so we can at least read the chat, you know, on YouTube. So when he opened it, the link, I heard 'The Man Who Sold His Skin', you know, at the same moment, you know. He opened it and they heard 'The Man Who Sold His Skin' and I told him 'What? What's the matter with 'The Man Who Sold His Skin?' And then there was a documentary section, we thought wait, they are announcing, you know. So it was like this, you know, it was just, just crazy."
The film follows a Syrian refugee in Lebanon — played by Yahya Mahayni, who allows his back to become a canvas for a famous tattoo artist.
Soon the artwork inspires avid interest among international collectors.
The story is a reflection on the value of an immigrant life explored by way of the humanitarian crisis in Syria within the idiosyncrasies of the international art market.
Kaouther Ben Hania is ecstatic about the significance of the cultural representation at the award show.
"I mean, it's historical because Tunisia never, never made it to the Oscars, so it's the first time. And it's a great honour for me, you know, to offer this to my country, to the African continent. I mean, it's not the first time for the African continent, but, you know, to represent Africa, to represent the Arab language countries, you know. A lot of pride and the great, great things. And for Tunisia, it's a historical moment. All Tunisians are very - they needed the good news, you know. Happy news. So it was the news of the day and I'm very happy."
'The Man Who Sold His Skin,' premiered at the 77th Venice International Film Festival in September 2020 and is up against 'Quo Vadis, Aida?' (Bosnia and Herzegovina), 'Another Round' (Denmark), 'Better Days' (Hong Kong) and 'Collective' (Romania) in the same category.