For the majority of Souad’s time on-screen, Bassant Ahmed’s engaging performance is powerful in that her contrasting demeanors and personalities are subtly expressed. It could be a snarky comment or the way she playfully chews gum, but no matter what, the character’s true intentions are never in doubt. In one brief interaction, Rabab asks, “Are you going to pray?” Souad sarcastically responds with, “No, I’ll dance!”
The sibling relationship between Souad and her younger sister Rabab is also sufficiently explored with genuinely diverting scenes, one of which includes Rabab imitating their overly religious aunt, who is quick to judge the clothes they wear. Halfway through Souad, Rabab takes center stage after tragedy befalls. In the aftermath, the family repeats a statement to each other for comfort: “We can’t object God’s will.” But through the commotion, it is an exceptionally guarded Basmala Elghaiesh who makes her presence known with her raw stillness and muted curiosity. This curiosity compels her to visit Ahmed, Souad’s apparent boyfriend, which subsequently leads to many awkward and quietly stirring scenes due to Basmala Elghaiesh’s soberly moving performance, which interacts well with Hussein Ghanem’s interestingly calm presence.
“…an emotionally layered story.”
Amin and co-writer Mahmoud Ezzat establish authority and authenticity by writing naturalistic dialogue combined with an emotionally layered story. Maged Nader’s free-flowing handheld camerawork and Amin’s casting of non-professional actors only serve to enhance this style, which fundamentally prevents any ounce of melodrama from breaching through. Even so, the pacing does marginally suffer from being disorganized with the sequence of events.
As you closely watch the teenage protagonists through every frivolous and understated scenario, it seems like you’re intruding on their privacy. But the intrusion is necessary to fully experience the cultural and familial weights repressing the individuality and femininity of the vulnerable protagonists. Ayten Amin’s Souad compellingly examines the hardships for young women in Egypt, who are torn between tradition, responsibility, and identity during the age of social media.
Souad screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…teenagers often don't disclose every emotion, but there are clues in their behavior and body language."