Lifestyle & Belief

Haifaa Al Mansour directs first ever Saudi film


Director Haifaa Al Mansour poses during the photocall of "Wadjda" at the 69th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2012 at Venice Lido. "Wadjda" is competing in the Orizzonti section of the festival.



Haifaa Al Mansour, whose film "Wadjda" premiered at the Venice Film Festival, became the first person to ever film an entire movie in Saudi Arabia, according to the Associated Press.

As the first Saudi Arabian woman to direct a film, Al Mansour was also viewed as both a pioneer and a pariah by different people in her homeland, noted the Guardian.

"Saudi Arabia is a very traditional, conservative and tribal society," she said. "Men and women cannot be on the streets together, particularly if the woman is seen to be directing the men. People would come and tell us to stop filming. It was a challenging experience, to say the least."

She told the AP, "It was an extremely difficult experience, but still it's very rewarding and it says something about the country — that the country of Saudi Arabia is opening up, and there is a place for arts to grow, and there is a place for women."

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The film is about a 10-year-old girl who dreams of owning a bicycle to race against a neighborhood boy.

Al Mansour said she often had to direct the film from her phone because Saudi law prevents men and women from being seen together outside. Deadline noted that the film will not be screened theatrically in Saudi Arabia because movie theaters are illegal.

Maintaining her positivity, Al Mansour said, "Saudi Arabia is opening up. I’m not saying it’s heaven, but we saw Saudi sending women to the Olympics. There is an opportunity now for women to pursue their dreams."

The film was bankrolled by German money, overseen by the producers behind "Paradise Now" and "Waltz with Bashir" and had the backing of the Saudi royal family.