Filmmaker, director, and screenwriter Ayten Amin has made a whirlwind in the Egyptian cinematography world, especially in minority as a woman, who is not afraid to show her perspective. If we’re to take a look at Egyptian filmmaker’s Ayten Amin career, we will come across one recurrent theme: a journey of self-acceptance and unveiling the truth.
Her first major short film, Spring ‘89 focused on the contrast between reality and fantasy – between what the two protagonists, Sarah and Camelia, present themselves as and who they really are, between what they think other people are and what they really are, between what they think love should be like and what it actually feels like.
The two friends are unaware of the other’s lies. Camelia doesn’t know Sarah had been lying about her relationship with Yehya, nor does Sarah know that Camelia had been seeing him behind her back. Despite the fact that they’re friends, Sarah rejoices at seeing Camelia sad when telling her about Yehya, and Camelia feels bad about what she’s doing, but it doesn’t make her stop or tell her friend the truth. There is also a very telling secret drawer of memories that Camelia has, as what represents your life’s and your self’s very essence remains hidden from others.
Another very poignant theme in the film is the relationship between the girls and their idea of love. Especially Camelia keeps quoting from books, about feelings of love, and constantly compares what she’s feeling with what she thinks she’s supposed to be feeling, which is very different. Her actual love experience doesn’t resemble the experiences of the girls she reads about. A scene in which it’s clear she much rather finds pleasure in fantasy than in reality is the one in which she seems to be imagining things while Yehya is out on the balcony.
In Sarah’s case, there is no reality to compare fantasy to, it is all she has. She finds satisfaction in talking about her fictional encounters with Yehya, she even writes notes to herself (resembling Joel Lehtonen’s character Liisa, who talks about her many imaginary lovers with the excitement of a child who talks about their toys), but her own fantasy ends up causing her distress precisely because it’s far from being concrete. She first meets with reality at the end of the film, and when she does she sees Yehya “as someone other than the one she loved”, which is precisely because to her he was just a projection of her own ideals and desires.
Such contrast between who people are and what they present themselves to be continues to transpire as a central theme in Ayten Amin’s other creations, such as Saabe Gar (Seventh Neighbour), a TV show in which who people are in public and who they are behind closed doors differs greatly, as well as in her feature film Souad, selected for the canceled 2020 edition of Cannes, in which two Egyptian girls create social media personas for themselves in order to escape the boundaries of the small town they live in.
Through all these, Ayten Amin emphasizes the way we are constantly fabricating different versions of ourselves for others, trying to give a fake idea of who we are in order to be loved and accepted, a subject close to heart to most people, especially the new generations emerging from a life of social media perceived perfection.