Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation. 2022. Tunisia/France/Qatar. Directed by Youssef Chebbi. New York Premiere. In Arabic, French; English. 94 min.
In Tunisian director Youssef Chebbi’s assured and gripping thriller, a young detective named Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) investigates a disturbing series of connected deaths—all of them apparent suicides by self-immolation. Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation (“shapes” in Arabic) is set in the environs of a halted construction site for a district in northern Tunis that never came to be—called the Gardens of Carthage, it had been intended for dignitaries of the country’s former regime before the 2010 revolution. A nocturnal descent, the film uses startling imagery that evokes 21st-century political traumas, most blatantly the death of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. While Fatma combats misogyny in her own profession and political pressures in the city at large, she begins to succumb to obsession with an increasingly confounding case. A Yellow Veil Pictures release