Review by Sean Boelman
With her documentary As I Want, filmmaker Samaher Alqadi sets out to skewer the misogyny that radiates through patriarchal society. Thoroughly affecting, if not entirely organized, Alqadi’s film is at its best when it leans more towards being a personal essay than a mere political statement.
The movie follows the filmmaker as she examines the uprising of women fighting in Egypt against a surge in sexual assaults and reflects upon her role as a woman and mother in the Middle East. It’s an important story, and unfortunately things like this too often don’t see the light of day in the media.
Admittedly, Alqadi almost tries to bite off more than she can chew in the film, trying to tackle the ideas of womanhood and motherhood, while at the same time trying to pull apart the patriarchal ideas of Middle Eastern society that have resulted in this situation becoming so dangerous and urgent in the first place.
At under an hour and a half, Alqadi is forced to jump between the different issues at a pace that is not always the most fulfilling. A lot of what Alqadi has to say is fascinating, but just as soon as she really starts going somewhere with one aspect of the movie, she has to pivot to one of the other themes.
This is clearly a very personal film for Alqadi, and that is a large part of what makes it so powerful. Alqadi gives some very intimate access into aspects of her life, and when she begins to explore her own past, it becomes even more so. It is honest, small-scale stories like this that really hit home the effects that these issues have upon their victims.
There are definitely moments in the movie that are hard to watch, like footage of a sexual assault which happens in a large crowd. However, Alqadi is not presenting these in a way that is excessive or insensitive, but rather, to communicate to the audience the horrors that women experience at the hands of men.
Stylistically, Alqadi’s film is not consistent, but it is very ambitious. For the most part, the footage is run-and-gun footage taken by Alqadi as she uses the camera as a means of protecting herself. There are also some poetic moments in the movie, and although they are well-done, they are too sporadic to be fully effective.
As I Want is an important film because it deals with themes that desperately need to be discussed. Samaher Alqadi shows a lot of talent as a filmmaker, even if it is somewhat unrefined.
As I Want is screening as part of CPH:DOX, which runs April 21 through May 2.