Quantcast
Connect with us

Woman beats the odds to make Saudi Arabia’s first film

Published

on

The female director of Saudi Arabia’s first feature film, showing at the Venice film festival, has explained how she beat the odds to produce the heartwarming tale of a girl’s quest to own a bicycle.

In Haifaa Al Mansour’s landmark film “Wadjda,” 10-year-old Waad Mohammed plays a girl who is also testing the boundaries of a woman’s place in a highly conservative society where her love for Western music and fashions land her in trouble.

ADVERTISEMENT

Mohammed’s impish personality and resilience in the face of adversity add to the poignancy of the story and left some of the film’s first viewers in tears.

“She had this vulnerability and she embodied what a Saudi teenager is,” Al Mansour said, speaking in the lush courtyard of the Excelsior hotel.

“I wanted to show the tension between modernity and tradition,” she said.

Al Mansour said she was forced to direct what is her first feature film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some of the more conservative neighborhoods where she could not be seen in public together with male crew and cast members.

ADVERTISEMENT

In some areas, screaming local residents would block shooting altogether.

She said finding financing also posed a problem in a country where cinemas are officially banned and any film is considered a commercial risk.

“Wadjda” will only be available in the kingdom on DVD or on television.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There is no film in Saudi Arabia. Showing films in public is illegal so we don’t have this culture of filmmaking. I was never able to go on a film set and get training and see how things are. It was very difficult,” she said.

Al Mansour grew up in a small Saudi town as one of 12 siblings and she said her parents were always very supportive of her career even though they came under pressure from relatives who said filmmaking was “not honorable.”

“They are very traditional Saudis but they gave me all the space to be creative and that does not happen to a lot of girls,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Born in 1974, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker studied literature at the American University in Cairo and film at the University of Sydney.

She has previously directed three shorts and the award-winning documentary “Women Without Shadows” which explores the hidden lives of Gulf women.

“Wadjda” was co-produced by Germany’s Razor Film and several Saudi companies including Rotana Studios which is linked to the Saudi royal family.

ADVERTISEMENT

The rights have already been sold in France, Germany and Switzerland.

For all the implicit criticism of the state of women’s rights in Saudi in the film, Al Mansour said things are gradually changing and having a Saudi prince on board showed that officialdom was supportive of this shift.

“The fact that we shot a flim in Saudi Arabia with permission and everything says a lot about the country. It says the country is embracing art,” she said.

“I think the authorities really want to see more films,” she added.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It is changing at a very slow pace. It’s still a very conservative, tribal society, very religious,” she said, adding: “I think women need to stick together in places like this and fight together and empower each other.”

Skipping along the halls of the Excelsior with headphones firmly on, a smiling curly-haired Mohammed said she was just having the time of her life.

“I’m very excited! This is my first time outside of Saudi Arabia and my first time in a film and I’m the lead actress,” she gushed.

Mohammed, who was selected through scouts as an open casting call for women would not be possible in Saudi, said her nature fit the character.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The naughtiness is me. It’s the real me. I do things I’m not supposed to!”

[Photo via Agence France-Presse]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Lewandowski’s lawyer freaks out, tries to block Congress from asking any further questions

Published

on

During the House Judiciary Committee testimony of President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski about the Russia investigation, Lewandowski's attorney frantically crashed the witness table and demanded that Congress stop asking questions of his client.

"Mister Chairman, as you know I am counsel for Mr. Lewandowski—" began the attorney.

"You are not a witness and you should not be seated at that table," cut in House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sharply.

"I understand that," said Lewandowski's attorney. "I will leave after I register a formal protest based upon the debate that I heard. These seem to be unauthorized questions and I know you choose your words carefully—"

Continue Reading

CNN

Congressman blasts ‘tough guy’ Lewandowski for blowing off hearing: He wants to ‘launch his senatorial campaign’

Published

on

On Tuesday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," House Democratic Caucus chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) laid into President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Corey Lewandowski for his aggressive behavior before the House Judiciary Committee.

"As you know, Democrats want to call other witnesses for this impeachment investigation," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "Do you worry, though, that Lewandowski set the precedent for not cooperating?"

"Well, Lewandowski portrayed himself as a tough guy," said Jeffries. "He's a likely candidate for a Senate seat in New Hampshire. And he was there probably to try to launch his senatorial campaign, not to take seriously his responsibility as a witness to participate in this hearing on behalf of the effort to find the truth for the American people. But that is okay. Because the American people can judge Lewandowski based on what they've seen from today and in terms of whether he was participating in a cover-up or participating in effort to reveal information to the American people."

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

‘This is not a reality TV show’: Democrat shuts down Rep. Collins when he tries to stop her questions about obstruction

Published

on

Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) had a freakout when a Democratic member of Congress dared to call out the president's obstructions of justice during the hearing with Corey Lewandowski Tuesday. During her questioning, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) drew conclusions outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller's report, but Collins proclaimed it was against the rules.

"Point of order, Mr. Chairman," Collins interrupted her opening statement.

"The gentleman will state his point of order," Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said.

"I would just ask, is the gentle lady accusing the president of a crime?" Collins asked.

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image