This film was previously reviewed in March 2021 as part of our Berlinale coverage.

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 sans hijab. On the bus, she tells each stranger who sits down in the seat next to her a different story of her life.

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 existing.



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.