On the bus, a stranger meets Souad (a breakout Bassant Ahmed): she excitedly explains that she’s studying for finals at the university in Zagazig, Egypt, and shows her photos of her fiancé, Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem), an army officer in Sinai. It sounds wonderful—but it’s not exactly true. In reality, Souad is torn between the expectations set by her traditional upbringing and her social media-based life among her peers, which splits her life in two. By day, she helps her family around the house and looks after her teenage sister Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh); by night, she’s glued to her phone, sending sexts to her distant content creator boyfriend Ahmed in Alexandria.
Ayten Amin’s feature film is an assured, harrowing glimpse at the difficulty of knowing, let alone fully realizing, oneself. As the internal and external pressures on Souad build to their breaking point, Amin guides the film toward a striking narrative shift: an expansion from a nuanced character study into a panorama of social attitudes in contemporary Egypt. —Frederic Boyer
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Ayten Amin studied film at the American University in Cairo. She co-directed the documentary Tahrir 2011, which premiered at Venice Film Festival. her feature debut, Villa 69, screened at film festivals in Abu Dhabi, Malmö, and Cannes.