A powerful and gripping debut film that details the women’s rebellion in Egypt, director Samaher Alqadi’s film is both angry and inspiring as she takes to the Cairo streets camera in hand (and sometimes brandishing a knife as well) to take part in protests; help protect women alongside her and shout and rail against the oppressive and sexist behaviour of many men.
On January 25, 2013, the second anniversary of the revolution, there was a series of sexual assaults on women in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as men targeted them for attacks, and in response a large crowd of rightfully furious and offended women took to the streets to protest. Amongst them was Samaher, who also used her camera as protection against abuse and who ended up recording the harrowing background to a growing women’s rebellion.
As one anonymous woman says on Egyptian television: “The reality is a result of a sickness in our society which has stayed silent for many years. Women are not even allowed to exercise their rights…I feel disgusted and oppressed. It is happening to girls as young as 14 years old. Raped in the middle of Tahrir Square.”
During filming, Samaher becomes pregnant and starts to use the process of filming to re-examine recollections of her own childhood in Palestine and debate what it means to be a woman and a mother in the MiddleEast. She begins an inner monologue (shot in moody black-and-white) with her own mother and uses old family footage to examine how oppressed her mother was, while also confronting dark memories from her childhood in Ramallah.
Even after the birth of her son Zein she continues to take her camera out into the streets, confronting sexism that has often been fostered by the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood but that is also part of a traditional society where men are used to the concept of being in charge. When she talks to youngsters at a playground she is told by one that she is going to hell because she has “revealing clothing”.
In one striking scene as she takes a taxi into the city, two young men on a motorcycle ride alongside, smiling and leering, showing little inclination to stop when aware she has a camera or even when she shows them the large knife she is carrying. Later in the film she angrily follows a young man who had propositioned her into a bakery, shouting at him, only to receive verbal abuse from an older man who threatens to hit her as a way of 'controlling’ her.
The end of the film may well neatly wrap with the birth of her second child Ram, but the key message is around the continued growth of women protesting for the right to be heard and for gender inequality and violence against women to be addressed. As I Want is an important and impressively powerful film about the fight for liberation and emancipation, with harrowing real-life stories helping drive women to show their collective power against ignorance and hostility.
Egypt-France-Norway-Palestine-Germany, 2021, 88mins
Dir/scr Samaher Alqadi
Production Prophecy Films, Temps Noir, Integral Film, Idioms Film, Kaske Film
Producer Karim El Hakim
Cinematography Samaher Alqadi, Karim El Hakim
Editor Gladys Joujou
(first published in Business Doc Europe)