Tahani Rached | 2006 | 68 min | Egypt
These Girls is a documentary portrait of a small group of girls who share companionship in the brutal and violent streets of Cairo, Egypt. Unfortunately, These Girls goes out of its way to insert so much whimsy and romance into the lives of these teenage prostitutes and runaways that virtually all of the impact is lost. The music, editing, and extended dances sequences all conspire to reduce this film to near parody. Yes, i said extended dance sequences. In one scene, a man washes out a found styrofoam cooler with rags to act as a makeshift crib for a girl's newborn baby. It is a disturbing moment- or it would be were it not played for laughs. The theatre thought it was adorable. Those homeless people are so inventive! Cute!
Also problematic is that the film gives no context to their lives or community so a great deal of cultural references are lost. The same can be said of the heavy reliance of euphemistic language like "slept with" or "love" to indicate rape, kidnapping, and prostitution. And to avoid any problems with what seems to be a predetermined story arc, when a girl is arrested or otherwise disappears, she is given no more than a quick mention and is quickly forgotten in favour of the other main "characters."
There is a great documentary that could made about these young women, who are strong, intelligent, and open about their day-to-day struggles, but this is not it.
The above is a repost of a March, 2008 review. These Girls plays Hot Docs on May 7. Check here for schedule and watch the trailer here.