Finding Ola is an Arabic language TV series from Egypt. Finding Ola is about a woman who divorces in her 40s and finds a way to reinvent herself. More than anything I have ever seen, it’s my story. Everything Ola did and felt and experienced as a newly divorced woman resonated with me completely. I felt perfectly represented watching it.
When Ola (Hind Sabri) hears from her husband, Hesham (Hany Adel), that he wants a divorce she is surprised and devastated. They have two kids, a tween girl (Aisel Ramzy) and a younger son (Omar Sherif).
Hind Sabri played the character Ola in a 2010 film, I want to get Married (Ayza Atgawez). In that film she was working as a pharmacist, looking for marriage. When she married Hesham he encouraged her to leave her friends behind and become a stay at home mom.
Ola was depressed about the divorce at first, especially because her conservative and traditional mother Sohier (Sawsan Badr) constantly urged her to win him back. Even after Hesham moved in with a much younger woman, bought a motorcycle and a new wardrobe, Ola’s mom still nagged her to get him back.
But the light began to dawn. Ola realized she could do what she wanted. She could make her own decisions. She could go on dates. She could eat ice cream in the cold and camp in the desert to watch the sunrise. She was liberated, free, and at peace with being a single mom.
Ola treats the camera, and by extension the viewer, as a friend. She makes remarks to the camera, breaking the 4th wall. She mugs for the camera behind the backs of the people she’s with. She takes you with her.
While being a stay at home mom, Ola used her pharmaceutical skills to create all natural lotions and skin care products for her family and in-laws. She realized she could turn that into a business and support herself. She teamed up with business mentors and bankers, made Montasser (Mahmoud Ellisy) and her long-neglected best friend Nisreen (Nada Musa) her partners, and opened a business.
Ola and Hesham cooperated with each other to care for their kids. They stayed on good terms, considering how he dumped her.
The best part of the series to me was the frequent references to the unequal roles of men and women in Egyptian society. Different rules and different expectations for men vs. women were pointed out in so many ways. Some were humorous and some serious, but they were always clear about the status of women. Ola’s rebellions against the status of women were fun and charming to watch, even as they were serious underneath.
She had successes and setbacks. She caved in to the familiar demands of her mother or of Hesham. But she made progress. She learned to recognize (and say) what she wanted for herself and her children.
Hind Sabri was so good in this. She hit every emotional note, she was beautiful and frazzled, charming and argumentative, open and closed off. The entire cast, including the kids, did a beautiful job. “Vogue Arabia” has an interesting interview with her about her emancipation in the film. You can see the trailer on YouTube.
Finding Ola really speaks to women who have found new ways to be and live later in life. I don’t know if men will enjoy it as much as I think women will. I thought it was one of the most heartwarming and inspiring TV series I’d seen in a long time.
The series is on Netflix and has 6 episodes. According to Variety, the series is an important part of Netflix strategy with Arabic content putting women in creative roles. Hind Sabri was a producer. The earlier Alrawbi School for Girls is another example of Netflix strategy with Arabic work.
If you watch it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.