• Golden Globe Awards

A Son (Tunisia/France/Lebanon/Qatar)

Set in the late Summer of 2011, over six months after the Jasmine Revolution and the fall of Ben Ali, A Son centers on an upper-class young Tunisian family, who are blessed with a perfect life. The husband, Fares, is CEO of a sales business, the wife, Meriem, is an HR manager for a big company in the Middle East, and their son, Aziz, is a bright 11-year-old kid. They live in a posh house and drive a fancy Range Rover and enjoy drinks and parties with fun friends. Their perfect life is manifested in the opening scene as we watch them taking a joyous weekend drive to a scenic Tataouine in the southeast.
Suddenly, their perfect life is shuttered when their idyllic drive is violently interrupted by the bullets of Islamist rebels. Fares reacts quickly, turning the car around, but it is too late. The bullets penetrate the car and rip Aziz’s liver. The removal of 80% of Aziz’s liver at the local hospital necessitates a liver transplant. Waiting for a donor in a conservative country like Tunisia is a death sentence for Aziz, so the doctor suggests using one of the parents’ livers and conducts DNA tests on both of them to find the most compatible.
The DNA test results are no less shattering than the terrorists’ bullets. They reveal that Fares is not the biological father of Aziz and Meriem doesn’t have the same blood type. Suddenly, the utopian harmony that bonded their family seems like an illusion that obscured  jarring incompatibilities and concealed dark secrets. Meriem’s transgression is too much for Fares to forgive but he is also aware that her sin is the only medicine that could save his son’s life. But accepting such a sin and benefiting from it is not only emasculating and humiliating but also scandalous in the Arab society.
And this is where the film leads us into darker territory, when a mysterious man offers Fares to provide a liver for his son within 24 hours and transplant it at a state-of-the-art hospital at a prohibitive cost, claiming that it will be taken from one of the dead fighters in nearby Libya, which is embroiled in a civil war. To save his son’s life, Fares has to navigate the same political, social and religious constraints and pressures that gave rise to the forces that put Aziz’s life in jeopardy in the first place. It’s a vicious cycle that people in Tunisia remain trapped in even after gaining democracy.
A Son is Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s directorial debut. It was first premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2019, where it won the award for best actor in the Orizzonti section.