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Daily Helping for August 26th, 2021 – Youth – Farida Zahran

A photo still from Youth. The lead actress is shown from behind, walking down a city street with cars parked on either side. It is night, and her face is illuminated by the head lights of an approaching car.

The logline for this Egyptian short film reads – A teenaged girl takes a step towards adulthood in contemporary Cairo. As a result, I was ready to watch a coming of age story. And it was that, to a certain extent. But watching it play out was horrifying, because Youth is a film that knows exactly what it’s saying. And what it’s saying is nothing good.

The plot is fairly straightforward. Two teenage girls are out for the night. As the film opens, they are in the bathroom at a party, gossiping about the boys in attendance. One in particular has caught the eye of the main character, and so when he asks her to accompany him to pick up pizza for the party, she readily accepts. And once they are alone in his car, he makes his move. However, she is not ready to reciprocate his advances, and when this becomes clear, he kicks her out of the car and drives off, leaving her alone on the street at night. The rest of the film follows her journey back home.

I will say that I think Youth is a great film. But it was also incredibly unsettling to watch. For 90% of the film, you are very aware as a viewer that this teenaged girl is in imminent danger of physical and/or sexual assault. As the story unfolded, I felt this growing sense of dread in the pit of my stomach waiting for it to happen. The relief that I felt when she (spoiler alert) makes it home safe was palpable, but it was only then that I realized that I very much thought that this film would go a different way. I fully expected that this young girl would experience physical violence due to the circumstances she found herself in. The fact that she didn’t was what made this film so surprising. And horrifying.

To return to the logline, Youth is a film about a young girl taking a step into adulthood. And unfortunately, for women all over the world, that step means realizing that we are in imminent danger of experiencing violence at all times. Having to come to terms with the fact that we will have to spend our entire lives on guard. That this is so ingrained in our psyche that as I watched this film, I never for a second considered that this story would end any other way. But it did, and for that I’m grateful. Even if the reality it’s forcing you to confront is horrifying.

Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!