Every refuge is an individual, with their own unique history and life experiences. There’s a distinct difference between economic migrants and someone seeking humanitarian protection. The vast majority of asylum seekers don’t want to leave their homeland but are forced out by conflict, torture, persecution etc. Often triggered or sponsored by the countries they try and flee to. The Man Who Sold His Skin tackles the way Western societies treat those looking for humanitarian protection.
Sam Ali (Yahya Mahayni) and Abeer (Dea Liane) were set to get married but were separated by the Syrian Civil War. After being arrested, he escapes and has to flee Raqqa for Lebanon. Meanwhile, she finds herself pushed into a loveless marriage with a government official (Saad Lostan). When the couple move to Belgium, he desperate to save her. In order to reach Europe he signs a deal with the devil, a provocative Western artist (Koen De Bouw) who uses his back as a live canvass.
The Man Who Sold His Skin looks at the commoditisation of suffering and the price of a human life through the eyes of a man who just wants to be with his love. Kaouther Ben Hania’s film is far from subtle, but highlights many of the issues surrounding the stigma attached to asylum seekers in Europe. Despite being a little clunky and stretching its ingenious premise to breaking point, The Man Who Sold His Skin is a clever and important film. One which takes aim at the innate hypocrisy of rich countries.
The Man Who Sold His Skin screens at Edinburgh International Film Festival.