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50th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Monday, May 7, 2007
9:10 p.m. These Girls
Tahani Rached (Egypt, 2006)

(El-banate dol). The streets of Cairo, Egypt, are no place for a young girl. Dangerous and unstable, they provide little reprieve from the dirty underbelly of urban life, where kidnappings are as frequent as police abuse. Yet, in this world where food, protection, and love are scarce, a sextet of teenage girls have found an unlikely home. Forced onto the streets through varying circumstances, they protect one another against hope. Tata, their self-proclaimed leader, ran away from home just before her own sister followed in her footsteps months later. Iman, mother to Aya and Islam, begs for medicine and clothes every day since her husband was placed in jail. Dunya, whose father threatens to drag her back home with a knife, will not return for fear of being beaten; and Abeer knows her father will kill her if she doesn't produce a marriage or birth certificate for the child she is soon to bear out of wedlock. The only saving grace in the girls' life is Hind, a woman they call "big sister" and who calls on them to provide counseling and love not on the part of the state but from the goodness of her own heart. Filmmaker Tahani Rached captures the girls' unending struggles, their addictions to glue sniffing and pill popping, their childbirths, and their lowly place in a male-dominated world (where a boy can scar a girl's face once he has slept with her), as well as their small triumphs, without sentimentality. In doing so, she naturally exposes the false bravado as well as the undeniable resilience these girls must summon up every day just to live the only way they know how.

—Erin Cullerton

• Photographed by Nancy Abdel-Fattah. (68 mins)

Plus short:
Rise and Shine (Sabah elfoll) (Sherif Elbindary, Egypt, 2006). True to its name, this amusing short captures a morning in the life of Sanaa, whose inability to find her house key before work sets her off on a philosophical monologue about the nature of her unfulfilled life. (8 mins)

• (Total running time: 76 mins)