No Eng­lish trans­la­tion avail­able.


How do we get along with each other when our views col­lide? This is a modern, urban ques­tion which is vital and uni­ver­sal. Four Egypt­ian women dare to answer this ques­tion. Their con­fronta­tion rede­fines the notion of tol­er­ance. The four girl­friends have one common goal: human dig­ni­ty. They are full of love for their coun­try. They still remem­ber the regency of King Faruk and they had hoped for fun­da­men­tal changes after Nasser’s rev­o­lu­tion. All of them have been fight­ing for social jus­tice since then, and yet, their iden­ti­ties have devel­oped accord­ing to the rhythm of his­to­ry. Each one of them has chosen a dif­fer­ent path. Their Islam­ic faith, Chris­t­ian belief, or Athe­ist con­vic­tion are like antipodes, their dif­fer­ent notions of a state col­lide: one wants the seper­a­tion of reli­gion and state, others fight for a social­ist or an Islam­ic coun­try.

Nev­er­the­less, the four women refuse to con­demn each other or allow dis­dain to enter into their rela­tion­ships. They listen to each other’s dif­fer­ent opin­ions and they are able to con­tra­dict each other. It doesn’t impair their friend­ship. They accept each other com­plete­ly, allow quar­rels, check each other , cal­cu­late and judge with­out with­draw­ing them­selves. They dare to judge each other and to tell each other what they think. They give each other the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explain them­selves and take revenge. And they laugh about it.

The Pro­tag­o­nists
Amina Rachid is a pro­fes­sor of com­par­a­tive lit­er­a­ture at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cairo. A left­ist mil­i­tant and a non-prac­tis­ing moslem since her youth, she worked for a decade at the nation­al research centre in Paris (CNRS) and returned to Egypt at the end of the 70s. She is editor-in-chief for ‘Nour’, a lit­er­ary jour­nal devot­ed to the work of Arab women.

Safy­naz Kazem left Egypt in 1961 to study in the United States of Amer­i­ca and stayed for 5 years. A devot­ed Moslem who wears the veil and advo­cates the strict appli­ca­tion of Sharia (Islam­ic law). She works as a writer, the­atre critic and jour­nal­ist. Recent­ly, she pub­lished an essay on the roots of her writ­ing.

Sha­hen­da Maklad is a leader of the agrar­i­an rev­o­lu­tion and the strug­gle for peas­ants’ rights fol­low­ing the assas­si­na­tion of her hus­band, whom she suc­ceed­ed. A prac­tis­ing Muslim, she has run for elec­tion three times.

Wedad Mitry is a retired teacher, trade-union­ist and cam­paigns for the rights of women. She was par­tic­u­lar­ly active in the fight for the right of women to vote. She is a prac­tis­ing Copt.


Pauli­na Cruz Suarez, now just turned 50, has worked as a maid in Mexico City since she was 15. She talks of her house­hold tasks and her cook­ing, until we see emerge the other Pauli­na, the child who was raped and reject­ed. Vicky Funari calls PAULINA a »non-fic­tion fea­ture film«. She mixes doc­u­men­tary shots and nar­ra­tive scenes, inter­weav­ing past and present. The result is the fas­ci­nat­ing por­tait of a woman who gave up all for taking con­trol of her des­tiny.

The direc­tor spent part of her child­hood in Mexico, where the future pro­tag­o­nist of PAULINA was her family’s maid. The film was born out of a visit to her child­hood home and a reunion with Pauli­na.


Work begins on a big com­mu­ni­ty igloo, and all share in the build­ing of it; one cuts, one car­ries, one builds, and so on. The chil­dren imi­tate. Women pile snow on the igloo, toss­ing it up from shovel to shovel. Ice sheets are installed for light. The men return to their seal­ing and the women to duties or play. In the large living space of the igloo, activ­i­ties are easy to see. An infant uses the sharp ulu as con­fi­dent­ly as any adult to cut bite-size meat or fish. A game of blind man’s bluff begins between women and chil­dren. This is fol­lowed by spear-the-peg, where a toggle-sized peg is sus­pend­ed and play­ers with baton-sized spears attempt to strike the hole in the peg as it turns. Now fish is sliced and eaten. In the blue dusk, the snow smokes over the ice, and the men come home. A man drags in a seal and a woman sucks on ice and then drips the water into the mouth of a dead animal. The flesh is then divid­ed, with each woman car­ry­ing away some in seal­skin bags. The dogs enter to clean up, and the men then try their games of strength.


In the morn­ing the women spread the furs over the igloos to air. The chil­dren play, strik­ing a ball of fur with a bone bat. The men wait patient­ly for sign of seals and the women play with the babies, sew, repair the igloos, nurse a child; an old woman rocks as she chants. A woman shows an older girl how to shape and cut fur for cloth­ing. Then the seals begin to arrive, towed by the hunters. The women dress the seals, eating between times, pass­ing the knife along as needed. The men come in with their catch, and soon all are indoors.


In late winter when the cold is severe, the people and dogs are glad to stop their trek and make camp. In the blue dusk the men probe the snow and then cut build­ing blocks while the women shovel a site. Soon all are under cover, and in the waver­ing light of the stone lamp they sleep, their breath rising coldly. In the light of day the men test and refur­bish their spears, har­ness dogs to the sled and strike out on the sea ice. Each man, with a dog or two, explores the white waste, seek­ing scent of a seal’s breath­ing hole. When a dog noses the snow, the man probes for the hole and, when he finds it, sus­pends a single looped hair to signal when the seal rises to breathe. Then he waits, motion­less, to make his strike. He kills, and the others gather to taste the warm liver of his catch. Then, as night comes, the vigil goes on.