The ongoing civil war in Syria, the plight of war refugees, and the intersection of First World commerce with Third World suffering are in focus in The Man Who Sold His Skin, a new feature from Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, which premieres in Venice’s Orizzonti section on Saturday.
It follows Sam Ali, a Syrian man attempting to flee to join his lover in Paris who discovers himself stranded in Lebanon. A chance meeting with a famous American artist provides a way out. He sells his skin — letting the artist turn Ali’s back into a tattooed work of art. Abruptly, the unwanted, undocumented refugee is a hugely valuable commodity in the art market. Yahya Mahayni stars as Ali, Koen De Bouw as the famous artist, and Monica Bellucci as Soraya Waldy, a high-society gallery owner.