Souad (Bassant Ahmed) is a 19-year-old who lives with her younger sister
Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh) in Zagazig, a small city on Egypt’s Nile Delta.
Souad leads a double life; while appearing conservative and wearing her
veil among her family and in public, she is obsessed with her image on
social media and addicted to her phone. She has secret virtual
relationships with men and lies both on and offline about her dull and
dutiful reality as she imagines a different kind of life with her
‘boyfriend’ Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem). As Souad’s actual life comes
increasingly into conflict with her digital one, she struggles as her
ambitions are slowly crushed, until tragedy strikes.
Featuring performances from a cast of non-professionals and
shot verité-style, largely on location in Zagazig and Alexandria, the film
acutely examines the contradictions of teenage life in modern Egypt and the
challenges of combining traditional values with the fake but enticing world
portrayed on social media.
SOUAD was a Cannes 2020 Official Selection film and selected for the 2021
Berlin Film Festival. Its physical world premiere was in competition at the
Tribeca Film Festival, New York City on 12 June, where leading cast members
Bassant Ahmed and Basmala Elghaiesh were jointly awarded Best Actress in
the International Narrative Competition. The UK premiere was on 1 July at
Barbican Cinema 1 when SOUAD was the opening film of the SAFAR Film
As well as its UK-wide release, SOUAD will play on extended run at BFI
Southbank from 27 August and will be the centrepiece film of the season,
THE TIME IS NEW: SELECTIONS FROM CONTEMPORARY ARAB CINEMA (running 27
August-5 October). Introducing new works and important Arab filmmaker
voices to the UK, including a large number of female directors, the season
is programmed by Youssef Shazli and Alia Ayman, co-founders of Cairo-based
Zawya, Egypt’s leading arthouse cinema and distributor. They have chosen
films that show the lyricism, humanity and poetry of everyday Arab life.