Ayten Amin’s Souad is a razor-sharp portrayal of sisterhood and sexual awakening that is rarely represented on screen

When the Egyptian director Ayten Amin was 10 years old, a classmate’s sister killed herself. The news gripped the school. But, in a society where suicide is a sin, no one talked about it; instead, they mourned the girl as though she had died mysteriously, or in an accident. “When I was shooting my first film, it suddenly hit me,” Amin says over a video call from her home in Cairo. “How did my classmate feel back then? How did she grow up knowing what happened, but with no one talking about it?”

In her new film, Souad, Amin explores precisely this: the hidden lives of teenage girls in Egypt. It follows the title character (played by Bassant Ahmed) and Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh), sisters of 19 and 13 living in Zagazig, a small city 40 miles north of Cairo in the Nile delta. To her family and friends, Souad is as religious as she is studious – but she lives a different life online. She has virtual relationships with men and becomes enthralled by the glamorous-seeming Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem), an influencer from the fashionable Mediterranean city of Alexandria. Their relationship begins to sour when Souad stands up Ahmed for a real-life date; it gets steadily worse as a cycle of sexts and arguments sets in. Then tragedy strikes.

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