Saudi women directors bring empowerment message to Venice

Haifaa Al-Mansour delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 21. (File/Reuters)
Updated 07 September 2019

Saudi women directors bring empowerment message to Venice

  • “Showing a lead female character, it is indirectly empowering women,” Mansour said

Female Saudi directors Haifaa Al-Mansour and Shahad Ameen brought a message to the Venice Film Festival along with their movies: Women must be seen and heard.

Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate” is one of two films by female directors out of 21 competing for the festival’s Golden Lion award, telling the story of a woman doctor facing gender-based challenges while running for municipal council.

Ameen’s “Scales,” which screened out of competition, focuses on a young girl surviving against superstitious villagers who believe she is a curse. Both directors hope their films will convey a message of empowerment at a time when Saudi Arabia has been easing male guardianship rules. “Showing a lead female character, it is indirectly empowering women,” Mansour said.

“The one who will make most money in this film is the girl, she is not a supporting role, she is the main role. You invest in her journey, love her and root for her that is what is very important for a conservative audience to see.”

The start of Mansour’s film reflects the changes in the Kingdom, with protagonist Maryam driving her car to work. 

Asked what she wanted Saudi female audiences to take away from the film, Mansour, also known for the English-language film “Mary Shelley,” said: “That it is about time to put themselves out there and not to be afraid of failure or to be judged.

“We come from a very traditional society so even with the liberties, like ... (women) driving is legal but not a lot of women drive because it is not accepted still socially. So it is very important for women ... to take advantage of the new freedoms given to them because that is ... how to move forward.”

In “Scales,” Hayat has been saved by her father from a village tradition of families sacrificing their daughters to sea creatures, making her an outcast.

Mansour has previously described how she at times had to hide in a van while directing her 2012 film “Wadjda” about a young Saudi girl determined to buy a bicycle. 

“It’s changed a lot, I don’t have to be in the van anymore ... and accessibility ... we shot in really remote areas and we were able to shoot,” she said.


World oil supply disruption the most ‘pessimistic scenario’: Japanese defense minister

Updated 8 min 16 sec ago

World oil supply disruption the most ‘pessimistic scenario’: Japanese defense minister

TOKYO: The Japanese defense minister has called the attack, claimed by Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia on Saturday an “act of terrorism,” saying something happening in the strait of Hormuz and disrupting the world oil supply is the “most pessimistic scenario.”

When asked by Arab News what Japan was prepared to do to protect itself from this worst nightmare given that 40% of the country’s oil supply comes from Saudi Arabia, Taro Kono said: “We definitely need to ease the tension between those countries.”

Kono, who was foreign minister until Tuesday, said his last act in that role was focused on talking to Iran and key players to defuse tensions.

The veteran politician said he had been talking to “Iranian Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister to ease the tension in the region through diplomatic actions, and I think it's important to continue doing it.“

“And this Houthi attack on Saudi is a little different, because it's a terrorist attack. And I think we may require some kind of military operation against those drone attacks,” though Kono admitted action of this nature was outside what Japan’s constitution allows. 

“I think Japan will be focusing on diplomatic efforts in easing tension in the region,” he said.

Taro Kono made the comments to Arab News while at the G1 Global Conference in Tokyo on Monday.