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Female shrink learns the hard way that she is as vulnerable as one of her patients, as she falls into the trappings of sexism and ageism - Egyptian film premieres at the 2nd Red Sea International Film Festival

QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM THE RED SEA

Kamla (Ingy El Mokadem) is a successful psychiatrist in her early 40s. She is beautiful, wealthy and strong-willed, living in a sumptuous mansion with her father, who suffers from advanced Alzheimers and can barely recognise her. She sees her patients from the comfort of her spacious lounge. She looks like the perfectly liberated career woman living an independent life. At least to Western eyes. Egypt, however, is a profoundly conservative society that often finds novel ways of oppressing women, ensuring that they adhere to the nation’s well-established orthodoxies.

Kamla’s formidable aunt is the voice of oppression. She emphatically and repeatedly demands that her niece gets married, as if she was her own child (Kamla’s mother passed away when she was a child). She is vouching for her family reputation and also for her very own finances, we learn in the second half of this 98-minute film. She comes up with a very bizarre proposition that will leave Kamla perplexed and scared. This is when the frothing beast of tradition shows its crooked teeth.

Our shrink protagonist befriends one of her best clients, thereby blurring the line between doctor and patient. This is when her fragilities begin to surface. The timid, hijab-clad woman does not look as liberated as Kamla. The trauma of female genital mutilation has wrought her. She still vividly remembers the day her mother maimed her as her father choked her with a pillow. She feels lifeless and empty. She finds her own body repulsive. Kamla can feel her pain, despite being the only woman in her family who has not been circumcised. The doctor too has reason to reject her own body, which we will learn later in the film. The two women bond in more ways than one. One day day Kamla takes her client to a book launch, in an event that will change both of their lives forever.

Eventually, Kamla becomes romantically involved with a famous writer called Youssef (Firas Saayed). His books portray strong female characters. Maybe she has finally found a man that will neither judge her by her age nor will become intimidated by her successful career. Kamla and Youssef look like the ideal middle-aged heterosexual couple: classy, gorgeous and well-spoken, with an elegant touch of Salma Hayek and George Clooney. But there’s a surprise in store that could have severe repercussions for both adults.

This interesting little story makes multiple commentaries on female oppression, and it has a couple of clever twists. But it also has an extra dose of saccharine. The story often slips into cutesy melodrama territory. The Arabic music score is overused, to the point that it becomes forceful and intrusive. The lighting is also excessive. These artificial devices attempt to lift the story at moments when the performances should be allowed to prevail instead. There are also a few very strange and abrupt cuts. The film would have benefitted from a little more time in the editing suite. Still, worth a viewing.

Kamla showed in the 2nd Red Sea International Film Festival, as part of the Arab Spectacular strand.


By Victor Fraga - 08-12-2022

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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