Hear Me Roar: 12 Arabic Movies That Portray the Power of Women

By Malak Khaled

Women in movies are usually portrayed as the subject of romantic affections, the object that the male leading character wants to win over. However, women are way more than just a romantic fantasy. They are mothers, they are strong, they can fight, and they are way more than what is usually portrayed in movies. 

Here are the movies that showed us new, different, and maybe darker sides of women; scroll down and add them to your list of must-watch movies!

1) Asmaa

Via IMDB

A drama movie directed by Amr Salama, starring Hend Sabry. In this movie, Hend Sabry plays the role of a middle-aged woman living with her father and daughter, all of whom are suffering from poverty. We later on discover that she suffers from HIV (AIDS). However, she decided not to give in to the disease and started to fight, doing everything she could to recover while facing the injustice of an ignorant society. She even later appeared on a TV show to speak out about the toxicity she faced.

This movie is a portrayal of how a woman stood courageously against ignorance. It also shows her persistence in not being marginalized or mistreated by anyone because of something she has no control over. 

2) Raya w Sakina

Who doesn’t know this story? A true story turned into film, converted to the stage, and lastly to a TV series. Yes, it was that huge. “Raya w Sakina” were two Egyptian serial killers. Women serial killers? Yes. They were sisters and they were actually the first Egyptian women to be executed. The police found themselves plagued by reports of missing women, all with the same description, and all were last seen with one of two sisters, Raya and Sakina. Raya and Sakina were known for luring women who were wearing gold accessories or carrying money in to kill them. 

On TV, “Raya w Sakina” was first seen in the 1953 film directed by Salah Abu Seif, starring Negma Ibrahim, Zouzou Hamdy El-Hakim, Farid Shawki, Anwar Wagdi, and Shoukry Sarhan. Not long after, in 1955, “Ismail Yassin Yukabel Raya w Sakina” was produced, directed by Hamada Abdel  Wahab, starring Ismail Yasin, Negma Ibrahim, Zouzou Hamdy El-Hakim, Abdel Fattah Qasri, and Reyad El Kasabgy. Then in 1983, another film was produced starring Sharihan, Younis Shalabi, and Hassan Abdeen directed by Ahmed Fouad.

In 1985, it was presented as a theatrical production starring Sohair El Babli, Shadia, Abdelmoneim Madbouly, and Ahmed Bedir. Lastly, in 2005, it was produced as a television series directed by Gamal Abdel Hamid, starring Abla Kamel, Somaya El Khashab, Sami Al Adl, and Salah Abdallah.

3) Kaf Al Qamar

Via IMDB

“Kaf Al Qamar”, starring Wafaa Amer, is a story about a mother of five children. She raised them till they were, supposedly, responsible men and expressed her dream of building a brick house. However, due to poverty, she allowed her children to leave town to find jobs and make money. Throughout the movie, the mother struggles alone without her children feeling the agony of them being distant and away from her sight. As she grows up, she feels through her maternal instincts that there is something wrong with her children; she always used the symbol of them being her hand (five fingers). She fell ill and asked her elder son to unite them, after their paths were separated, to visit her on her deathbed.

This movie is a portrayal of the caring and loving mother, the mother who couldn’t survive without her children. It shows how strong the bond between a mother and her children is, which as the main focus, isn’t really a theme we usually see on TV.

4) 678

Via IMDB

“678”, released internationally as “Cairo 6, 7, 8”, is a dramatic film that focuses on the daily sexual harassment that women face in public places and events in Egypt. The film portrays the life of three women: Fayzah, played by Bushra, Seba, played by Nelly Karim, and Nelly, played by Nahid El Seba’y. Fayzah is a low-income government employee who gets harassed on her way to work which affects her marital life. Seba is a middle-class jewelry designer who gets harassed by a group of men in a football stadium as her husband is unable to reach her, and later unable to live with what happened to her so she was left to face the emotional trauma on her own. Nelly is a standup comedian and call center employee who gets verbally harassed by customers, and physically while walking home, she tries to file a report after catching the guy who harassed her but the police officers resisted and send her to another precinct, she later appears on TV as the first Egyptian to file a harassment report. 

The three women faced the emotional trauma of sexual harassment and this movie traces their struggle to fight against the traumatic incidents that happen to them as well as other women. 

5) Bent Esmaha Zaat

Via IMDB

“Bent Esmaha Zaat” is an adaptation based on the famous novel by Sonallah Ibrahim. The series is directed by Kamla Abou Zekri and stars Nelly Karim. There are so many things to be said about this series, but briefly, it traces the life of a woman who witnessed many social and political winds of change. Starting from the year she was born in 1952, witnessing the first Egyptian revolution and the beginning of the era of the military rule in Egypt, the series takes us through different stages of Zat’s life of 60 years through major changes in Egypt’s history and how it affected hers.

6)  Taht El Saytara

“Taht El Saytara” is a famous TV series that focuses on Mariam, also played by Nelly Karim, who previously struggled with drugs and relapsed back into it after nine years of recovery due to her past haunting her. However, due to her courage and strength, as well as the support she got from her long time friend and ex-drug addict, she gathers herself back together and returns to her normal life.

7) Fy Kol Esbo’ Youm Goma’a

In this series, Laila, played by Menna Shalaby, has an unknown and mysterious path which forces her to stay with Emad, played by Asser Yassin. Laila, however, starts taking revenge on people who ruined her and her family’s lives. This masterpiece of a series shows the power of a woman’s wrath, how she is able to seek revenge on people who harmed her and ruined her life enough to fake her death. Yes, they were caught in the end, but that was after she achieved her purpose, which shows her persistence. 

8) Segn El Nessa

Set mostly in Qanater women’s prison, this series is about a naive new prison guard named Ghalia, played by Nelly Karim. The series traces her life as well as the lives of around five other women who suffered many hardships in life which led them to commit crimes that sent them to prison during political, social, and economic unrest. 

As stated by El Adl Group, “This very powerful and often gritty social drama, in which the women are wonderfully portrayed by an amazing cast, might lead viewers to examine and perhaps also change their minds about women behind bars.”

9) Foo’ Mostawa El Shobohat

“Foo’ Mostawa El Shobohat” traces the life of a successful university professor named Rahma Halim, played by Yousra, who leads what seems to be a peaceful, socially stable life. However, later as things are unraveled in the series, it is discovered that due to her tough childhood and her mental history, she is hiding a dark, monstrous, evil, and vengeful side that complicates and destroys her life within her society. 

This series, like others on the list, manages to show the darker side of women, the vengeful side often caused by the many traumatic events in their lives.

10) Hala’ La Wein

A group of Lebanese women is seeking to ease out religious tension between the Christian and Muslim men in their village after they were brought together by grief over the loss of their children and relatives in the war.
The movie shows the power of women when they come together as one to fix a specific issue. It shows the strength they have together and the support they give each other to bypass traumatic matters.

11) Sukkar Banat

Layal works at a beauty center with three other women, each one has a story. Layal is in a relationship with a married man, Necrine is a Muslim who lost her virginity and doesn’t know how to face this problem especially that she’s about to get married, Reema is having issues with her sexual orientation, and Gamal has an issue with aging.

This movie shows different problems in women’s lives, and how they deal with their mistakes and things in their lives that they regret. It shows the inner workings of women’s lives in the Middle East with an intimacy that only Labaki can achieve.

12) Wadjda

Via IMDB

A rebellious and spirited 10-year-old girl dreams of owning a green bike that she sees on her way to school, but the idea of having a bike is not welcomed by her mother because it’s not preferable for a girl according to society’s perspective, and she doesn’t have the money for it. Wadjda then begins her mission to earn the money herself by selling mixtapes, handmade bracelets and as secret a messenger for older students. She then signs up for her school’s Quran recitation competition to raise more money to buy the bike.

This story portrays the persistence of a girl who wanted to achieve a specific dream, even though it wasn’t accepted by anyone around her, and beautifully expresses the hardships that girls and women face in Saudi Arabia.

WE SAID THIS: Which one is your favorite movie?

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