Sunday, September 02, 2012

Saudi Arabia's Feminist Cinema

Both female drivers and movie theaters are banned in Saudi Arabia, but it now has a female director whose work is showing at the Venice Film Festival:
"In Haifa Al Mansour’s landmark film ‘Wadjda’, ten-year-old Waad Mohammad 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.
"Mohammad’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...
"Haifa said she was forced to direct what is her first feature film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some of the neighbourhoods where she could not be seen in public together with male crew and cast members. In some areas, screaming local residents would block shooting altogether...
"Haifa 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 honourable.'
"For all the implicit criticism of the state of women’s rights in Saudi in the film, Haifa said things are gradually changing and having a Saudi prince on board showed that officialdom was supportive of this shift."
The article doesn't say, but the prince in question might be al-Walid bin Talal, who owns a film studio.  On that note, too, I actually think that there are previous Saudi-produced films, as mentioned on this wikipedia page.

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