As I Want (2021)

Women meet politics as they bravely fight against rampant sexual assaults and for a more progressive country in this intimate home video-style, if sometimes unfocused, documentary about the aftermath of the Cairo Revolution.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,188

Dir. Samaher Alqadi
2021 | Egypt | Documentary | 88 mins | 1.85:1 | Arabic
Not rated – likely to be at least NC16 for sexual references and mature themes

Plot: In 2013 a crowd of enraged women take to the streets after a string of severe sexual assaults occur in Tahrir Square on the second anniversary of the revolution in Cairo.
Awards: Nom. for Encounters Award (Berlinale)
International Sales: Filmotor

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Revolution, Women’s Rights
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Screener
Spoilers: No

Premiered under the ‘Encounters’ category at the Berlinale earlier this year, As I Want is another in an increasingly long line of documentaries coming out of the Middle East post-Arab Spring that are about emancipation. 

Here the context is the Cairo Revolution in the early 2010s, and the focus is on a shocking sexual assault in a crowded Tahrir Square during its second anniversary, and the response by a group of enraged women to it. 

It is a meeting of women and politics, set in the aftermath of the promise and unpredictability of political change in the region. 

A mix of home video footage, news footage, re-enactments and intimate self-portrait style filmmaking, As I Want is about director Samaher Alqadi’s engagement with activism, as well as a reflective video essay on her thoughts of being a woman as she ‘speaks’ to her deceased mother. 

“Why are we born dominated, Mama?”

Some of the footage that she has captured are empowering as women take onto the streets to signal their stance against the rampant sexual assaults in the country; Alqadi’s camera also captures many instances of male toxicity such as fleeting remarks and insults towards her that are of a sexual nature. 

All these would naturally form the crux of a documentary that derives its power from the immediacy of its images, but a major issue that I have with As I Want is that its deeper message is unclear. 

Its conflation of gender, national politics and personal journey can feel fuzzy at times, and the latter aspect is not always compelling enough to make it all work as a coherent piece. 

Grade: B-


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