Review: I am Afraid To Forget Your Face (2020)

Courtesy of Square Eyes

Adam has been separated from his beloved for two months. We got to know this through a voice message he gets right at the beginning of the film. The girl’s voice trembles on the other side of the “wire” as she delivers a couple of lines, including the one stating that Adam obviously didn’t come up with an escape plan. The girl remains nameless and she remains a voice only, although very briefly – she also becomes a face, but still and drained of life.

I Am Afraid To Forget Your Face isn’t a line taken from the film dialogue and turned into the film’s title, it’s a statement. Powerful in its almost completely silent narrative whose tension grows in an uncommon way – by letting the sounds from the mundane outside world penetrate Adam’s apartment and eventually spit him out on the street and further up to his heartbreaking destination, the film is crafted with good ideas and great skills.

Distancing the sound from its main protagonist who is heard saying just a few, one could say – insignificant sentences, is one of the most effectful aces up the sleeve of the writer/ director Sameh Alaa. By letting the world around Adam buzz, fuss, speak, pray while he’s eaten by his pain innerly without losing as much as a word about it, the attention is not only turned to the excellent performance of Seif Hemeda, but to the story in its fullness.

Mysterious in its main build-up, the narrative doesn’t disappoint by meeting the viewers expectations as to where it’s going. And since it doesn’t, its key development is very powerful in the masterly plotted story about the consequences of domestic repression and its devastating consequences.

Since its premiere in San Sebastian, I am Afraid to Forget Your Face was crowned Best Short Film in Moscow, Best Arab Short Film at El Gouna, and most recently it was awarded the Palme D’Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in short film competition. It awaits a very long festival circuit run, and probably many more awards coming its way, and this is not surprising because it is one of the most cinematographicaly strong and touching short films of this year.

Courtesy of Square Eyes

Country: Egypt/France/Qatar/Belgium
Language: Arabic
Year: 2020
Runtime: 14’55”
Written/ Directed by: Sameh Alaa
Producers: Muhammad Taymour, Mark Lotfy
Co-producers: Ahmed Zayan, Martin Jerome
Cinematographer: Giorgos Valsamis
Sound Recording: Sameh Nabil
Sound Design: Moataz Al Qammari
Editor: Yasser Azmy
Colourist: Karim Mira
Music: cheree-suicide, Universal daughters cover
Sound Design & Mix: Moataz Alqammari
Sound Recordist: Sameh Nabil
Production Designer: Shaimaa Magdy
Costume: Nour Fawzy, Faten Mohamed
Hair & Makeup: Mowafaq El Lithy
Cast: Seif Hemeda, Nourhan Ahmed, Om Dalia, Ahmed Elmasry
Distribution and Festivals: Square Eyes