By Blythe Taylor
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Souad—coming of age in Egypt

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Issue 2770
Soaud (right) and her sister Rabab
Soaud (right) and her sister Rabab

Souad is a 19 year old living in the small city of Zagazig, Egypt.

We first meet her on a bus, telling a woman next to her about her fiance. He’s an army officer in Sinai who she worries about when she watches the news.

Minutes later, there’s a new woman sitting next to her. This time when she talks about him, he is a surgeon living in Cairo.

It’s quickly apparent that these stories are her ideas of what ordinary relationships are like.

The personas she creates give her a sense of control.

In reality, the relationship she has with a man is one of frustration, as she watches his social media videos while waiting for his phone calls and replies to messages.

When hanging out with friends and little sister Rabab, the young women laugh about their strict aunt. Souad makes a witty remark about excusing herself from prayers because she has her period.

Then, an unexpected event shakes the family.

From now on the story focuses on Rabab and Souad’s illusive boyfriend, Ahmed.

Ahmed lives a contrasted life amid the wide streets of metropolitan Alexandria.

He and his friends are seemingly free from the conversativism which sees Souad and her sister following paths already laid out for them. His position as a man affords him greater control over his choices—something he tests the boundaries of.

In interviews, director Ayten Amin says she wanted to create a documentary feel, achieved through handheld shots and engulfing sounds of a living city.

The film feels connected to the lives of many young people and has a universal coming of age appeal.

Above all the story speaks to young women. It paints a portrait of sisterhood, and the bond between two sisters growing up within the traditions of faith and family.

In this restrictive context Souad and Rabab try to find an identity they can claim for themselves.

Souad, In cinemas now

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