For Four Daughters (Les filles d’Olfa), writer-director Kaouther Ben Hania has created an unusual documentary that includes actresses playing the real-life characters, who, in many scenes, stand beside them and discuss their motivations.

In 2016, a Tunisian woman, Olfa Hamrouni, caused a sensation when she went public about how two of her four daughters disappeared and joined ISIS in Libya. Although thousands of young Tunisians had done the same thing, most of their families were too upset and ashamed to talk about it.

To recreate this story, Ben Hania hired two actresses, Ichtaq Matar and Nour Karoui, to play Ghofrane and Rahma, the two daughters who joined ISIS. When she introduces them to Hamrouni and her two younger daughters, Eya and Tayssir Chikhaoui, they are shaken by the actresses’ physical similarity to Ghofrane and Rahma. Hamrouni decides that certain scenes are too emotional for her to recreate, so Ben Hania chose Hind Sabri, a well-known actress, to play Olfa. Eya and Tayssir play themselves.

At times, Sabri confronts Hamrouni with her past actions. Hamrouni admits to having been an overly harsh disciplinarian, a strategy that clearly failed. Because Hamrouni divorced her violent and alcoholic husband, Ghofrane and Rahma were mocked at school for not having a father. They searched for an identity and community that worked for them. It says a lot about their desperate needs that they went directly from Goth to ISIS.

At the age of 16, Ghofrane joined ISIS in Libya. Panicked, Hamrouni turned over Rahma to the police, but she eventually was released and, 15 years old, joined her sister. Both of them married ISIS leaders. In 2016, Rahma’s husband, Noureddine Chouchane, was killed by a U.S. air strike. The sisters, accused of terrorist attacks in Tunisia, were both sent to prison in Libya.

Four Daughters does have one sequence of comic relief, which Hamrouni gladly recreates. On her wedding night, her husband is urged to use force to get Hamrouni to sleep with him. But Olfa is a tough woman. She punches her husband in the nose, causing him to bleed. Then she smears his blood on the bedsheets and tricks the wedding guests into thinking the marriage has been consummated.

All the male parts in the film are played by the same actor, Majd Mastoura. Presumably, Kaouther Ben Hania’s message is that women all have distinct personalities, but men are all the same.

Ben Hania’s most noteworthy fictional films are Beauty and the Dogs, about a woman who fights for justice after she is raped by police officers, and The Man Who Sold His Skin, which earned an Academy Award nomination in 2021.