Review by Dr Khalid Ali
"The subject of HIV in European and American cinema has of course been explored in many films (such as "Savage nights" (1992), "Philadelphia" (1993), "The Hours" (2002), and "Angels in America" (2003)). However depictions of HIV positive characters in Arab cinema have been scarce, characteristically portraying HIV patients as promiscuous sinners who deserve to be ill, or else as victims of an American conspiracy to spread HIV infection amongst young people in the Arab world.
Based on a real life story, the new film "Asmaa" by Egyptian director Amr Salama and starring actress Hind Sabry is therefore a welcome advance in the handling of such a taboo subject in Arab cinema. The main protagonist, Asmaa, is a middle-aged widow who works as a cleaner in Cairo International Airport, and cares for her elderly father and her rebellious daughter. In a shocking opening scene, Asmaa is thrown out of an operating theatre where she was about to have surgery, after informing her surgeon that she is HIV positive.
The variety of themes examined in this film, including confidentiality, HIV patients' right to treatment, counselling and support, in addition to the excellent narrative style and the heartfelt emotional portrayal of its heroine, make it essential viewing for doctors, medical ethicists and human rights organisations, as well as the public."