Haifaa Al Mansour has made history by becoming the first woman in Saudi Arabia to create a feature-length film. It seems almost unthinkable that in 2013 there aren’t more women making films around the world, but Al Mansour’s tenacity will perhaps open more doors for women who also long to write and direct.
Haiffa Al Mansour’s film, “Wadjda,” is the story of a young girl from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia who enters a competition where she must memorize and recite passages from the Koran. She hopes to win the competition in order to raise enough money to purchase a bicycle, like the ones her male friends have. The film took years to complete because of the difficulty Al Mansour had trying to film it entirely in Saudi Arabia. She was sometimes even forced to direct over the phone because of local laws that permit men and women from being seen together in public, just one of the many obstacles she faced. Al Mansour insisted the film be authentic, however, and would not compromise on its filming location.
The result of her years of hard work and dedication to the project is a film that champions a young girl’s determination to fight for something she wants while living in a society that constantly oppresses her. “Wadjda” is a story that captures the innocence of a young girl, simultaneously illustrating the hardships that face women in Saudi Arabia. The fact that the film was made by a female director who faced considerable difficulties while making it is indicative of the patriarchal culture of Saudi Arabia that has oppressed women for centuries.
“Wadjda” has already won a handful of awards and will be released in many cities in 2013. Director Haiffa Al Mansour is hopeful that in years to come, more opportunities for women will arise in Saudi Arabia, and hopes that her efforts to create a feature-length film will inspire others to create something of their own.
Take a look at the film’s trailer.