NZIFF 2021: سعاد Souad (2021)

Whānau Mārama – New Zealand International Film Festival showcased films from plenty of countries, and among the films from the Islamic world that I saw, Souad may not have been the finest (the films from Iran were, as usual, far richer and more accomplished) but this showcases a different side of Egyptian filmmaking from what I’m familiar with, perhaps something more akin to a little indie film in its sensibilities.


I don’t think this film is perfect by any means, but it does feel like something a bit different from the Egyptian films I’ve seen, a bit more naturalistic and less reliant on melodrama to carry its story. It deals largely with two sisters, and the guy who (in some ways) comes between them but also is largely unseen for much of the film, and thematically it’s dealing with what is already now a hoary old chestnut of the dangerous effects of social media. However, given the strict conservatism that exists for interpersonal relationships in the milieu this is set in, there’s an implicit critique of the orthodoxy that’s driving young people to popular social media sites that encourage toxic and self-destructive behaviour. In a sense though that’s just in the background, albeit rather powerfully at times, and mostly I enjoyed this as a story of two sisters that takes a surprising turn part of the way through, but is carried ultimately by those performances. Like many modern films, it ends on an unresolved note that feels a bit abrupt but also suggests the story goes on, and who knows what it will bring for any of the characters we see.

Souad (2021) posterCREDITS
Director Ayten Amin آيتن أمين; Writers Amin and Mahmoud Ezzat محمود عزت;
Cinematographer Maged Nader ماجد نادر; Starring Bassant Ahmed بسنت أحمد, Basmala Elghaiesh بسملة الغيش, Hussein Ghanem حسين غانم; Length 96 minutes.
Seen at City Gallery, Wellington, Sunday 21 November 2021.

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