★★★★★ ‘Absolutely compelling and engaging’ The Upcoming

Dir: Ayten Amin
Cast: Bassant Ahmed, Basmala Elghaiesh, Hussein Ghanem
Running time: 96 mins

Zagazig, north of Cairo: 19-year-old Souad (Bassant Ahmed) is on the cusp of adulthood, but her desire for new freedoms clashes with the expectations of her family, religion and society. In public, she is a diligent student, obedient daughter and sister (to 13-year-old Rabab, played by Basmala Elghaiesh), but in private, she maintains a more liberated alter ego and makes romantic connections online. Trying to outwit the limitations imposed upon her by constantly adopting different personalities, she dreams of a truly self-determined life; but her ambitions are at odds with reality.

Moving between Zagazig and more cosmopolitan Alexandria, Souad offers a complex picture of contemporary Egypt that’s both affectionate and critical, as well as a moving portrait of its youth as they aspire to be loved, to live and be born into the wider world. Fluidly naturalistic and clear-eyed, Amin’s dynamic film illustrates the fugitive spaces inhabited by young Egyptian women, their strategies for survival and the unsustainable internal tensions engendered by forbidding freedoms that are so readily available online.

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