review by Imogen G.

When we visited my parents recently, the teens (and my mum) spent several hours gripped in front of Catfish on MTV. Souad, created by female director Ayten Amin, reminded me a fictional, more emotionally nuanced, Egyptian version of Catfish.

Naive, romantic Souad (played by Bassant Ahmed) is in her late teens, and lives with her parents and thoughtful younger sister Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh). Souad is captivated by Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem), an influencer, ‘content creator’ and social media personality in nearby Alexandria. He flirts with her online, and they have intense telephone conversations, but they never meet, and he has an infuriating tendency to fly under the radar for days at a time.

Souad’s family is not wealthy, and her upbringing has been comparatively conservative. She’s a fantasist, spinning stories to random women on the bus about her lovely fiancĂ©, imagining different versions of his family life and their burgeoning, mostly imaginary, romance. Ahmed, in contrast, is much older, more sophisticated, and certainly more cynical, with a serious girlfriend. We sense quickly that things will not turn out well.

The film was slightly ruined for me by a spoiler online, which popped up when I was googling where I could catch it. Knowing this pivotal plot point in advance (no spoilers here!) meant that I spent the first half of the film waiting for it to happen, and as a result the movie felt slow, and I even nodded off a couple of times. I do have a sort of parrot complex that means I frequently fall asleep as soon as the lights go down in the cinema, but it did perhaps indicate that it could have been edited down a bit.

I saw Souad at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton, London, in a tiny screen I didn’t even know existed, up a secret flight of stairs. Well, a flight of stairs, anyway. When I walked into the screening my booked seat was occupied, so I sat in the (entirely empty) row in front. When the film started, the group of people behind suddenly made anxious muttering and rustling sounds, before exiting the screen, bringing the total number of viewers to four. A niche option then, but worth seeing for the effecting second half.

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