Commencing with a rousing image of homeless girl Tata riding a horse amid downtown Cairo traffic, director Tahani Rached’s documentary These Girls exudes empathy and respect for its destitute Egyptian teenage subjects’ plight, which—though never outright stated, is unmistakably and compellingly implied throughout—is the result of a society in which women are disenfranchised, abused, and oppressed. A series of street scenes in which the group of girls fight, dance, sing, beg, steal, and pass the time sniffing glue and popping pills, Rached’s portrait of life on the skids makes clear that many have deliberately chosen their current situation over staying at home via conversations about, and confrontations with, fathers who seem all-too-willing to murder their offspring rather than suffer the shame brought about by their misbehavior. That Tata and her comrades—including Maryam, who sports a boy’s haircut to avoid rape, and Abeer, an expectant single mother fearful of her dad’s wrath—have apparently opted for the lesser of two evils doesn’t preclude a measure of disappointment from creeping into the film through the figure of Hind, a devout Muslim who altruistically counsels the kids to forgo drugs and prostitution. Yet Rached’s is not a judgmental portrait but a fundamentally compassionate and evenhanded one, allowing her camera’s gaze to record their ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs, without intrusive interference. Wracked by hopelessness, fearful of not being able to provide for their infant children, and terrified of suffering facial scarring by omnipresent male sexual predators, the girls inevitably band together into a dysfunctional, but necessary-for-protection, clan characterized by a volatile mixture of supportive kindness and violent resentment. A brief but haunting window into a tragic world, the film captures the young women in all their persevering strength and marginalized wretchedness, with its abrupt ending devastatingly conveying the sense that for these discarded females, the struggle to survive remains an unfinished, ongoing undertaking.
- 68 min
- Tahani Rached
- Tata Maryam, Reda, Abeer, Dunya, Iman, Hind
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