CAIRO: In a first for the region, the Cairo International Film Festival has signed the 5050x2020 gender parity charter, joining 60 other film festivals worldwide to ensure equality and improve transparency in the entertainment business.
Women in the Arab world have worked behind the camera long before the charter. From post-revolutionary settings to personal struggles, they have told stories from the region that would have otherwise remained unheard. Here are 10 of the most accomplished female Arab filmmakers.
1. Annemarie Jacir
Jacir has written, produced and directed award-winning films such as “A Post Oslo History” (2001). Her short film “Like Twenty Impossibles” (2003) was the first Arab cinematic work in this category to enter an official selection at the Cannes International Film Festival. The Palestinian director’s most recent film, the dramedy “Wajib” (2017), won her 18 international awards.
2. Nujoom Al-Ghanem
The Emirati filmmaker, writer and poet had to overcome societal stigma, family disapproval, and the responsibilities of a wife and mother. She defied the odds to study TV production and filmmaking, later producing films such as “Amal” (2011) and “Sounds of the Sea” (2015).
3. Nadine Labaki
Labaki, who spent the first 17 years of her life in a war-torn area in Lebanon, made her debut with “Caramel” (2006). This female-centric comedy premiered at Cannes, and won the actress and director widespread recognition.
4. Haifaa Al-Mansour
The movies of Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker explored women’s issues in the country as well as other taboo topics. Her three shorts “Who” (1997), “The Bitter Journey” (2000) and “The Only Way Out” (2001) won awards in the UAE and the Netherlands.
5. Hala Khalil
Beginning her career in the post-patriarchal era in Egypt, Khalil represented the new generation who made films exploring bold themes and featuring strong female characters. Works such as “The Best of Times” (2004) and “The Kite” (1997) won Khalil several awards and global acclaim.
6. Mai Masri
Living close to the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, Masri witnessed what would become known as the Sabra and Shatila massacre. A theme in her movies is life in Palestine and the Middle East, especially in films such as “Beirut Diaries: Truth, Lies and Videos” (2006), “3000” (2006) and “Layla” (2015).
7. Nayla Al-Khaja
Al-Khaja began her career with the comedy “Sweet Sixteen” in 1996, going on to produce award-winning films and documentaries. She has been lauded for presenting social issues in a realistic setting, especially in films such as “Arabana” (2007) and “Animal” (2017).
8. Kaouther ben Hania
The Tunisian-born director shot to fame with her bold themes and characters in movies such as “Le Challat de Tunis” (2013) and “Beauty and the Dogs” (2017), which had a post-Arab Spring background with strong women fighting for justice.
9. Sofia Djama
Starting out in advertising and short story-writing, Djama turned to directing when one of her short stories, “Mollement un Samedi Matin” (2012), was made into a film. In this picture, the Algerian director explores the parallel existence of social morality and legal actions.
10. Shahad Ameen
This Saudi writer and director caused ripples with her debut film “Scales” (2019), the story of a young girl on a path of self-discovery in a dystopian setting. Ameen explores the personal journey of a woman who ends up being in the shadows in a male-dominated society.
• This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.