Asmaa is the story of a middle-aged Egyptian woman who lives with her father and only daughter in a poor Cairo district. Struck by poverty and the pressure of raising a teenage daughter in Cairo’s tough reality, are not her only worries, for we learn that she is HIV positive, which is her dark secret. Stigmatized by her disease she wanders around helplessly to find herself at a crossroad of outing herself and facing the harsh Egyptian society or quietly numbing her pain away for she has a gall bladder infection that requires immediate surgery.
The absurd fact that surgeons refuse to operate her due to being HIV positive leads Asmaa to desperation when she crosses paths with a TV producer who is looking for candidates to speak about medical corruption related issues on the Talk Show of prominent and ruthless TV host Mohsen El Seesy, excellently portrayed by Maged El Kedwany.
During the unfolding incidents we learn more about Asmaa and the strong woman she was and deep inside still is. Through beautifully integrated flashbacks, we see the colorful episodes of her life until one day her life would change forever. Like a narrative documentary the camera depicts the ups and downs in the protagonist’s life without coming too close yet not being too far away to care.
Asmaa is not a film about Aids; it is a film about courage, faith and standing up for what is right. Doing the right thing has never been so difficult than in pre-revolution Egypt, filled with ignorance, ethical and mental corruption. Asmaa’s struggle between complete social isolation and her right to lead a life in dignity is brought to life through superb and genuine acting of Hend Sabry, who has topped herself. She managed to perfectly maneuver the different facets of Asmaa, gently moving from complete despair to revealing the true strength and courage of this woman, who decided to face the storm and chose to do the right thing. She revealed Asmaa’s vulnerability so gently and respectfully without falling into cliché.
Amr Salama effortlessly touches upon the stated and unstated factors that influence a society’s paradigms in a subtle way without a raised finger. The beauty of Asmaa is the fact that is not designed. It is authentic and sincere. As much as it touches upon a very complex matter of the very judgmental Egyptian society as much as it respects the viewer and presents a narrative that anyone can comprehend, feel and empathize with. It appeals to the importance of preserving humanity in a tough habitat that lost its benevolence a very long time ago. A true story of a strong and proud woman who has Aids but Aids does not have her!
Asmaa is the long awaited second feature of young director Amr Salama, starring the amazing Maged El Kedwany and Hend Sabry as well as Hany Adel, Ahmed Kamal and Fatma Adel. A New Century and Film Clinic Production represented through producers Bushra Rozza and Mohamed Hefzy.