Actress Sarah Shedid on Why Egyptian Feminist Film ‘Souad’ Selected for Cannes Matters

Actress Sarah Shedid on Why Egyptian Feminist Film ‘Souad’ Selected for Cannes Matters

‘Souad’, a drama film by Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin.

Women have yet not had time to breathe in Egyptian cinema. While there have been a few films or series that tackled various issues that women face, most were often superficial and lacking the authenticity of what a female director and a female crew could portray. In essence, it should be about allowing the women to control their own narrative.

This authenticity is best illustrated in the recent 2020 drama film ‘Souad’, which was recently selected to be shown at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival. The film was directed by filmmaker Ayten Amin and co-written with Mahmoud Ezzat, and produced by Sameh Awad, Mark Lotfi, Mohamed Hefzi, as well as Tunisia’s Dorra Bechoucha.

The film delves into the secret and double lives of young women in Egypt in the age of social media, narrating the story of a 12-year-old girl named Rabab who lives in the Delta area of Egypt and her sister Souad.

“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,” Cannes Festival wrote on its website.

A majority of the cast, according to Ayten Amin on Al Qahera Wel Nas,  just had their first acting experience with this film, adding that she chose this in particular as it helped bring more authenticity to the characters they were portraying, which closely resembled their own characters. She is also known for her other films such as  ‘Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad, and the Politician’ and ‘Villa 69’.

Egyptian Streets spoke with Sarah Shedid on her first acting experience in the film, playing the role of ‘Rabab’.

Actress Sarah Shedid.

What does the film talk about, and what does it aim to portray?

The film ‘Souad’ is about the daily lives of two teenage sisters and their friends in a small delta city. It was produced in 2020, but Ayten Amin has been working on the film for 5 years. It talks about the impact of social media on girls from small cities, and how they lead double lives and the world of meeting and texting others virtually.

It is an intimate portrait of young women in Egypt today and their struggles and dreams. It follows a more documentary style, not a scripted film, which makes you feel like you are watching a real story.

How was your experience like as an actress in being part of such a film for the first time?

‘Souad’ is my first acting experience. It was very special and interesting as I was experimenting with a new way of self expression, and I am very thankful I had this experience with Ayten. The relationship dynamics between us wasn’t like that between a director and an actress, it was much more up close and personal, very intimate and supportive. She definitely gave each one of us what she needed exactly to act genuinely.

And how was the shooting experience different?

We had camp-like rehearsals with Ayten so we can somehow merge into the characters. Ayten gave us the ability to freely express ourselves and was encouraging us to add our own input to the characters. We had the freedom to add lines and improvise while rehearsing and shooting, and improvising helped us a lot as it felt more authentic. It felt more real rather than acting it out.

The film also had a lot of females in front of the camera and behind it and this brought us even closer together as a family, especially since the film is shedding light on female characters, their struggles, and dreams.

What do you think makes this film so special and relevant today, and why should it deserve more attention?

In the current period of time we live in, there are no films focusing on females and their psyche, and the experience is always different if the director is male. When a female director is talking and shedding light on other females you can open up and be vulnerable; you are received with empathy because females notice the slightest details and bring it to life, and they portrait it as real as it is.

The official premiere will take place in Egypt at Al Gouna Film festival.

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Mirna Abdulaal is a writer, researcher and aspiring public/political communication specialist interested in women's rights, cultural heritage and fashion, and political communication.

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