For filmmakers, few honors can compare to premiering a movie in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. And for fans of international cinema around the world, seeing a Cannes hit opening in theaters after a long wait can be one of the most exciting moviegoing events of the year. This weekend promises to bring such a treat to New York moviegoers, as Kaouther Ben Hania’s Tunisian metafictional documentary “Four Daughters” makes its way to select theaters.

The film tells the story of Olfa Hamrouni, a Tunisian woman who lost contact with two of her daughters when they left to join ISIS. Hania documents the story of the family’s dissolution by casting two professional actors to play the estranged daughters. The narrative device invokes classic metafictional documentaries such as Abbas Kiarostami’s “Close-Up” by simultaneously telling a story and prompting viewers to question the reliability of the film in front of them. It’s an approach that earned the film strong reviews from critics to go along with its coveted slot in the Palme d’Or competition.

“It’s easy to get trapped in circuitous arguments surrounding documentary ethics at the best of times, but Kaouther Ben Hania’s metafictional ‘Four Daughters’ — involving young children, abuse, trauma and re-enactments — appears to chart these knotty waters as a barefaced challenge,” Steph Green wrote in her IndieWire review of the film following its Cannes premiere. “This Tunisian entry into Cannes’ Official Competition is a bold behemoth of an undertaking, which is veiled, unveiled and then re-veiled with endless angles and perspectives; it’s a veritable snakepit of uneasy decisions that grips you with its novel approach to so-called truth-telling before lapsing into something a little more conventional. Far from a gamble made in the service of naturalism, this heightened and strange piece of fiction re-enactment exposes itself for critique in a way that you almost have to respect.”

The film’s official synopsis describes it as “a cinematic tour de force that transcends the boundaries of typical documentary filmmaking and follows a Tunisian domestic worker Olfa Hamrouni, whose two eldest daughters — Ghofrane and Rahma — disappeared in 2015 (aged 16 and 15) to join ISIS in neighboring Libya. Their abrupt departure leaves her and her two youngest daughters, Eya and Tayssir heartbroken. The result is part observational wonder and part performance masterclass, as Olfa and her daughters negotiate their own unique perspectives on the trauma they share.”

“Four Daughters” opens in select theaters in New York City on Friday, October 27. Check out the trailer and poster, an IndieWire exclusive, below.

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