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Berlinale 2021 Souad :: Movie Review
Josefine Algieri, one room with a view March 7, 2021
The film is remarkable not just for its razor-sharp,
nonjudgmental insight... but also for the nuanced performances making each character rounded yet
ultimately unknowable. -- Jay Weissberg, Variety
"Souad" is more along the lines of "Eighth Grade" or
"Ingrid Goes West," crossed with "The Virgin Suicides"-films
about a specific form of feminine fragility and the unique ways it is affected by the duplicity of social
media. -- Roxana Hadadi, The Playlist
The pacing of the film is at times uneven,
its narrative structure lacking clarity; but Souad and its frank portrayal, both of fragile, stifled femininity
and other taboo topics rarely discussed in Egyptian media, is impressive for merely existing.
The subject of a teenage girl glued to her smartphone is nothing new, but in Souad, director Ayten Amin shows her protagonist in a setting rarely seen on screen.
In semi-rural Zagazig, located outside of
Cairo in the Nile delta, the titular character (Bassant Ahmed)
leads something of a double life. At home, she is the loyal and obedient daughter, online she flirts with
boys and posts suggestive selfies, made up and without hijab.On the bus, she tells each stranger who sits down in the seat next to her a different story of
Her struggles and the desire to be someone else are never directly
expressed. In fact, much remains unsaid in Amin’s script, despite the seemingly constant chatter. This is never more obvious than in the film’s
pivotal scene, where even sound fades to a high-pitched whistle; the event itself is never shown, but
the focus lies on Souad’s sister Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh) as she reacts to it. Through five months of
rehearsal, the cast of amateur actors informed the nature of their characters, allowing in particular the
two sisters a natural ease with each other.
Amin aims for a naturalistic
representation, both of her characters and the greater Egyptian society, avoiding more glossy and
cosmopolitan representations of the country. As such, the settings of Zagazig and
Alexandria – where Rabab later meets Souad’s ex-boyfriend
Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem) in search for answers – appear as they are, down to the very quality of the air. Captured by
DP Maged Nader, the images seem almost
desaturated, adding to the sombre atmosphere of the film.
The pacing of the film is at times uneven, its narrative structure
lacking clarity; but Souad and its frank portrayal, both of fragile, stifled femininity
and other taboo topics rarely discussed in Egyptian media, is impressive for merely
CAST: Bassant Ahmed, Basmala Elghaiesh, Hussein Ghanem, Hager Mahmoud,
Sarah Shedid, Carol Ackad, Mona Elnamoury, Islam Shalaby, Nayera El Dahshoury
DIRECTOR: Ayten Amin
WRITER: Ayten Amin
SYNOPSIS: The film revolves around the relationship of two teenage sisters in
one of Egypt’s Nile Delta cities, one of them holds a secret life in the virtual world.