Squad (2021): Egyptian Tale of a Teenager and the New Social Media

Souad follows the life of a teenager named Souad (played by Bassant Ahmed), age 19, in Zagazig, a small town on the Nile Delta in Egypt.

She leads a double life: She is conservative with her family but projects a completely different life on social media.  Thus, she engages in several secret virtual relationships with men like Ahmed (Hussein Ghanem). She wants to be in the same class as Ahmed even though they are both from middle-class families, except Ahmed’s middle-class feels loftier based on his Alexandria background.

Souad doesn’t feel any shame or guilt even when she has phone sex with Ahmed because she feels it didn’t actually happen. However, her ambitions are slowly crushed by the invasion of her true reality.

Some small incidents lead to a tragic event, which makes Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh), her 13-year-old little sister, embark on a real-life journey looking for answers. Rabab later inherits the cell phone and continues the journey her sister was never brave enough to embark on; it also becomes her last physical connection to Souad.

Amin, who has been working in the film industry for the past 12 years, explained, “I have been working on the film since 2015. It’s my second feature film. At the time, I had an idea and then I started working with my co-writer Mahmoud Ezzat, who is a poet, and has a lot of social media followers. We started working on the film based on the conversations that we had with his followers.”

Asked why this movie was special to her, Amin said, “I was nine years old when the sister of a friend of mine committed suicide and they lived right next to the school. The teachers asked us specifically not to talk about what happened. We grew up, graduated and we never talked about what happened to her sister. This was the initial idea of the script.

“I always thought, how this sister grew up and how she managed to cope when no one talked about this?

“Then I talked to Mahmoud, who has a lot of Twitter followers. He knew a lot about those types of girls. They had virtual relationships with famous people. We started writing the first draft based on these conversations.”

Social media gave the girls this fake sense of freedom, giving them a virtual social life, but then they had to go back to their real lives. She stressed that this added anxiety, stress and depression to their lives.

The other stars featured in this drama include Hagar Mahmoud as Wessam, Sarah Shedid (Amira), Carol Ackad (Yara), Mona Elnamoury (the mother), Islam Shalaby (the father), and Nayira Al-Dahshoury (the aunt).

As for her casting decision, she narrated that she went to small cities and saw more than 250 girls to find her two leads. She said that she did not want actresses because she wanted girls who really lived it and could give input to the film.

“I really wanted someone who has this rich inner life that they can contribute to the film. This was how I found both girls.”

She recalled that when she auditioned Bassant Ahmed for Souad, she asked her to improvise the scene on the bus. Bassant did and Amin loved what she did “because her imagination was very wild.” As for Elghaiesh who plays Rabab, she was only 13 but “she was very bold.”

The girls never read the script before shooting and they went through five months of intensive rehearsals. She just told them about the ideas of the scenes and both girls would improvise.

Amin captured those improvisations on her mobile phone. Then she went back to Cairo on the weekends to meet her co-writer and they started rewriting the script based on them.