x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Triumph of Saudi film

The Saudi film "Wadjda" is a triumph of perseverance over adversity and signals the society slowly becoming more open.

Most film makers struggle for their craft but few have faced the challenges of Haifaa Al Mansour, a Saudi woman who not only wrote and directed a feature-length film in a nation without cinemas but also depicted a contentious topic - a 10-year-old girl's struggle for independence against social strictures.

To give just one example of the task she faced, the prohibition on unrelated men and women speaking to each other in public meant she had to direct some street scenes in Riyadh from the inside of a van, communicating with the film crew via walkie talkie.

Ms Al Mansour reported that the act of making Wadjda has made her simultaneously a hero and a pariah in her homeland, but that is just part of the sometimes painful process of a deeply conservative society becoming more open.

For Wadjda to exist at all is a victory of tenacity. For it to have won a string of prizes and commendations at film festivals around the world is a double triumph that should be welcomed by Saudi society as some positive news about the kingdom, as a nation of aspirations and courage.