Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour: Arab women are ‘sassy’ and strong, not victims

Saudi Arabian independent filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour delivers a speech during a ceremony ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2019 annual meeting, on January 21, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019

Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour: Arab women are ‘sassy’ and strong, not victims

DAVOS: One of the biggest misconceptions about Arab women is that they are victims — but they are in fact “sassy,” according to Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker.

Speaking on Wednesday during a panel at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Al-Mansour discussed the various judgements made about women from the region.

“All the scripts I get about Muslim and Arab women (imply they are) all victims and sad,” she said. “But we are very sassy, we are very strong, so don’t take us for granted.”

Al-Mansour explained that although some Arab women are constricted for various reasons, it is not accurate to view all Arab women in this way.  

“We are way more than what they think Arab women are,” she said.

Reflecting on her personal journey, Al-Mansour explained that although she comes from a conservative society, social norms are changing.

“I knew I came from a society where women are expected to take a more traditional role, but I feel this is changing because I now feel more celebrated at home,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has seen a push in social reform spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman through Vision 2030, an initiative that aims to broaden the Saudi economy. Major recent changes in the Kingdom include lifting the driving ban on women and reopening cinemas.

“Saudi Arabia is building its arts and culture industry, and that’s where we should put our energy,” Al-Mansour said.

Speaking about Saudi women entering the workforce in the Kingdom, Al-Mansour stressed the need for women to “support each other” on the professional playing field.

“Women don’t want to be marginalized any more — that’s why we see things like the #MeToo movement,” she said.

On an international level, Al-Mansour argued that we should get beyond thinking about East and West and concentrate on working together to achieve something universal.

Hollywood star Cuba Gooding Jr. shares career at Saudi Film Festival

Updated 26 March 2019

Hollywood star Cuba Gooding Jr. shares career at Saudi Film Festival

  • He said he hopes to support Saudi filmmakers through his recently launched production company
  • The festival, at Ithra, is part of the Sharqiah Season in the Eastern Province

DHAHRAN: Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. talked about his experiences in Hollywood, and the challenges he has faced during his career, when he appeared on Monday night at the fifth Saudi Film Festival, which is part of the Sharqiah Season in the Eastern Province.
Known for his roles in movies such as “Men of Honor”, “A Few Good Men” and “American Crime Story,” among others, he has appeared in more than 85 films during a 30-year career on screen and stage. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in the 1996 film “Jerry Maguire,” alongside Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger.
Gooding Jr. arrived for the event, at the King Abdul Aziz World Center for Culture (Ithra), accompanied by Claudine De Niro, the estranged wife of actor Robert De Niro’s son, Raphael. They were greeted by renowned Saudi film producer and Hollywood businessman Mohammed Al-Turki.
Gooding Jr. spoke to the audience at Ithra for almost 60 minutes about his long career and the challenges and pitfalls he had experienced on the road to success in the film industry. He also offered some advice to anyone interested in following in his footsteps.
“No one prepares you for success,” he said. “That’s why you see a lot of actors that star in movies, then disappear. Or you see athletes that make a $100 million and then they disappear, too. They weren’t ready for it.
“You have to envision yourself standing on that stage, holding an Oscar over your head, saying, ‘This is for the Middle-East’. You have to envision the script that you will write and envision being on that stage, holding that Oscar.
“People asked me after I won that Academy Award if I ever thought I would be on that stage. I always said, ‘Not in a million years.’ But that’s a lie. You have to envision yourself on that stage, winning that award, so that when you succeed it will feel normal, not like it’s something special, so that you can do it again.”
The actor also said that he intends to support filmmakers from Saudi Arabia and other countries through his recently launched production company.
Asked if he had any projects planned in the region, and Saudi Arabia in particular, he said: “I do, actually. I have a couple of things. I don’t want to give it away but let’s just say that there is a lot of great literature that I’ve read, a lot of different books, including Arabian Nights. It’s hard to talk about the things in development because you don’t want to give it away but there is definitely something in development.”