If you ever think that huge budget Hollywood blockbuster level production is needed to get your film into a festival, ‘Souad’ is proof that that isn’t the case. The Cannes 2020 selected film was shot in a small Egyptian town and features an entire cast of nonprofessional actors.
This honest coming-of-age teen drama tells the story of two social media obsessed, carefree sisters, Rabab and Souad, as they experiment with makeup, seduction and intimacy, while growing up in a conservative society.
Like many girls in conservative Arab families, there are plenty of things the sisters aren’t allowed to do, and the film explores this with sensitivity, exploring how they learn to lie, and even live a double life, in fear of dishonouring the family’s dignity and respectability.
“Fluid, seamless, up-close-and-personal camera work in a moving portrait of Egypt’s youth. Ayten Amin carefully builds a precious world where local tradition and universal hope are fused. Here, young girls dream, hope to please and seduce, aspire to be loved, to wear make-up, to be born into the world,” the Cannes Festival wrote on its website.
In a naturalistic, quasi-documentary style, the film documents the sisters’ quest for personal freedom, as they question the rules imposed on them.
In a country where women continue to face discrimination in both law and practice, a narrative film like ‘Souad’ opens up space for a complicated set of much-needed generation-defining questions.