Rise of Saudi women filmmakers shatters gender stereotyping

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Updated 01 September 2022

Rise of Saudi women filmmakers shatters gender stereotyping

Rise of Saudi women filmmakers shatters gender stereotyping
  • ‘We’re voicing our own stories,’ says pioneer Danya Alhamrani
  • Arab News’ Rawan Radwan: 26% of Arab world directors are female, 8% in the US

CHICAGO: Saudi and Arab women filmmakers are outpacing their counterparts in the US and Europe, leading voices in the industry and media said Wednesday.

Documentary filmmaker Danya Alhamrani, co-founder of EggDancer Productions based in Jeddah, said that women are changing long-held stereotypes.

This view was supported by Arab News Deputy Sections Head and Regional Correspondent Rawan Radwan, whose research shows that more women directors from the region are involved in the industry compared to their peers in the US and Europe.

During an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show Wednesday, Alhamrani said that one problem with movies made in Hollywood or by Western male filmmakers is that the stories of Arab women have always been told by others.


“I think for so long we have had people tell our stories for us. And they are being told from the perspective of somebody who has not walked in our shoes and so therefore can’t tell our stories authentically. And so this is something we are really striving to do, to tell our own stories and in our own voice,” said Alhamrani who in 2006 became with her business partner, Dania Nassief, the first women in Saudi Arabia to own and manage a film production company.

Alhamrani said the biggest challenge is getting the industry to support their projects. Their first long format documentary is “Rise: The Journey of Women in Saudi Arabia,” which conveys the evolution of female empowerment in the Kingdom.


“It is about the history of women in Saudi Arabia starting in the 1950s when education for women was first started and schools were first opened and how that changed their trajectory. And so our film is full of female pioneers and different industries, from sports to art to media, and business, and even in law and politics,” Alhamrani said.

“So I think the stereotype that is very common about Saudi women is that we are oppressed. But that is why it was so important for us to make this film. Why? Because it actually shows the different side in the history of Saudi women who have been working in all these industries and pushing boundaries for a very long time.”

Alhamrani said she and company co-owner Nassief prefer documentaries because it allows them to engage directly with people and experience their real lives rather than pursuing fiction which imagines a life and often feeds stereotypes.


“We like to do stories with a social issues slant. Our goal is to bring the stories, our local stories here in Saudi Arabia, to tell stories that are biased and for us but also to bring our stories to the world,” explained Alhamrani, who led the late celebrity chef, author, and travel documentarian Anthony Bourdain on a tour of Saudi Arabia in 2008 for his CNN program “Parts Unknown.”

EggDancer Productions is online at EggDancer.com.

Alhamrani is one of several women filmmakers who were part of a special feature by Arab News’ Radwan which explored this growth in the Kingdom and across the region.

“There are more women behind the cameras than one would expect,” Radwan noted. She said data shows that “26 percent of directors are female in the Arab world, but only 8 percent are female directors in the US.”

Arab women filmmakers are also now submitting more independent productions at Cannes than their European peers.


“All of these women are out there and they have been in the scene for more than 10, 15 years now. Just because it is not mentioned in the news, just because you don’t look at us or have a microscope on us, doesn’t mean we are not out there,” Radwan said.

“And yes, there are challenges as it is with every female filmmaker in the world. It is not a problem that is just isolated here in the region. It is a global problem. Look at the numbers. We just said 8 percent in the US and 26 percent here in the Arab World. That is a lot. That is a huge comparison.”

Radwan added that there was “a growing appetite” to make films beyond the typical television game shows or interview programs, with Saudi women getting support from the Film Commission established in the Kingdom several years ago.

“They invited men and women filmmakers to participate rather than going outside of the country,” she said.

Danya Alhamrani and Rawan Radwan appeared on The Ray Hanania Radio Show on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit and Washington D.C. The radio program is rebroadcast in Chicago on Thursdays.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.

Hold your horses! Colombian senator rides through Congress

Hold your horses! Colombian senator rides through Congress
Updated 29 September 2022

Hold your horses! Colombian senator rides through Congress

Hold your horses! Colombian senator rides through Congress
  • Colombia Congress has allowed members to bring their pets 

BOGOTA, Colombia: Members of Colombia’s Congress can now bring their pets to work, in a world first, and for one senator, wild horses couldn’t have dragged him away from marking the first day of the new rule.
Alirio Barrera showed up to work astride his white horse. 
He first rode through the capital Bogota before steering his steed into the halls of Congress, to make a statement about the importance of horses for the Colombian countryside.
“It is a tribute to the farmers, to the men and women, to the herdsmen who live with horses. To all those people who work in the fields,” he told AFP, holding his horse — named Pasaporte — by the bridle.
Senate president Roy Barreras announced the new policy last week, with his dog lounging in his lap. This makes the Colombian Congress “the first in the world to be pet-friendly,” he said.
For Barrera, “my pet is my horse.”
“If the law is for one, let it be for all.”
But his ride to work rubbed some colleagues the wrong way. Senator Andrea Padilla criticized what she called “an immature attitude with which he wanted to ridicule a good decision.”
“It is not the same thing to take a dog to the office as a horse,” she said. “A horse suffers on the asphalt, on the sidewalk, it suffers on these waxed floors.”


‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59
Updated 29 September 2022

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59

LOS ANGELES: Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died Wednesday at age 59, his manager said.
Coolio, whose legal name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately clear.
Coolio won a Grammy for best solo rap performance for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” that sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.”
He was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late-1980s.
Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California, where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.
His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, “It Takes a Thief.” It’s opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A year later, “Gangsta’s Paradise” would become a No. 1 single, with its dark opening lyrics:
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left, ‘cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”

David Bowie’s handwritten ‘Starman’ lyrics sell for over £200,000

David Bowie’s handwritten ‘Starman’ lyrics sell for over £200,000
Updated 27 September 2022

David Bowie’s handwritten ‘Starman’ lyrics sell for over £200,000

David Bowie’s handwritten ‘Starman’ lyrics sell for over £200,000
  • The handwritten lyrics sold for five times as much as the £40,000 estimate
  • The lyrics were previously on display as part of the V&A Museum's David Bowie Is collection

LONDON: David Bowie’s original handwritten lyrics for the pop classic “Starman,” part of an album that catapulted him to international stardom, on Tuesday sold at auction in Britain for £203,500.
Released as a single in 1972, the song about a Starman who would “like to come and meet us but he thinks he’d blow our minds” featured on the Ziggy Stardust concept album.
The handwritten lyrics sold for five times as much as the £40,000 estimate.
The winning bidder was Olivier Varenne, director of acquisitions and alliances and collections at the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, on behalf of a private collector.
“We had almost unprecedented interest from around the world for this historic piece of memorabilia,” said Paul Fairweather of Omega Auctions.
“We’re very pleased with the incredible price achieved and are sure the lyrics will be rightly prized and treasured by the winning bidder.”
The lyrics were previously on display as part of the V&A Museum’s David Bowie Is collection. They had been owned by the same person since the 1980s.
The A4 page features handwritten amendments and edits by Bowie, including corrected spelling mistakes and additions.
The lyrics were sold as part of a David Bowie and glam rock sale on Tuesday.
In 2019, the first demo of Bowie singing Starman sold for 51,000 pounds after gathering dust in a loft for nearly five decades.
Bowie can be heard telling his guitarist Mick Ronson, who died in 1993, that he has not finished singing the song when he tries to end the demo.
The singer, born David Jones, died aged 69 in New York in 2016.

‘A new era’: NASA strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense

‘A new era’: NASA strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense
Updated 27 September 2022

‘A new era’: NASA strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense

‘A new era’: NASA strikes asteroid in key test of planetary defense
  • DART’s celestial target is an asteroid “moonlet” about 560 feet (170 meters) in diameter that orbits a parent asteroid five times larger called Didymos as part of a binary pair with the same name, the Greek word for twin

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A NASA spaceship on Monday struck an asteroid seven million miles away in order to deflect its orbit, succeeding in a historic test of humanity’s ability to prevent a celestial object from devastating life on Earth.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor hit its target, the space rock Dimorphos, at 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time (2314 GMT), 10 months after blasting off from California on its pioneering mission.

“We’re embarking on a new era, an era in which we potentially have the capability to protect ourselves from something like a dangerous hazardous asteroid impact,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Dimorphos — a 530-foot (160-meter) asteroid roughly comparable in size to an Egyptian pyramid — orbits a half-mile long big brother called Didymos. Never seen before, the “moonlet” appeared as a speck of light around an hour before the collision.

Its egg-like shape and craggy, boulder-dotted surface finally came into clear view in the last few minutes, as DART raced toward it at roughly 14,500 miles (23,500 kilometers) per hour.

NASA scientists and engineers erupted in applause as the screen froze on a final image, indicating that signal had been lost and impact had taken place.

To be sure, the pair of asteroids pose no threat to our planet as they loop the Sun every two of our years.

But NASA has deemed the experiment important to carry out before an actual need is discovered.

By striking Dimorphos head on, NASA hopes to push it into a smaller orbit, shaving 10 minutes off the time it takes to encircle Didymos, which is currently 11 hours and 55 minutes.

Ground telescopes — which can’t see the asteroid system directly but can detect a shift in patterns of light coming from it — should provide a definitive orbital period in the coming days and weeks.

The proof-of-concept has made a reality of what has before only been attempted in science fiction — notably in films such as “Armageddon” and “Don’t Look Up.”

Minutes after impact, a toaster-sized satellite called LICIACube, which already separated from DART a few weeks ago, was expected to make a close pass of the site to capture images of the collision and the ejecta — the pulverized rock thrown off by the strike.

LICIACube’s pictures will be sent back in the next weeks and months.

Also watching the event: an array of telescopes, both on Earth and in space — including the recently operational James Webb — which might be able to see a brightening cloud of dust.

The mission has set the global astronomy community abuzz, with more than three dozen ground telescopes participating, including optical, radio and radar.

“There’s a lot of them, and it’s incredibly exciting to have lost count,” said DART mission planetary astronomer Christina Thomas.

Finally, a full picture of what the system looks like will be revealed when a European Space Agency mission four years down the line called Hera arrives to survey Dimorphos’ surface and measure its mass, which scientists can currently only guess at.

Very few of the billions of asteroids and comets in our solar system are considered potentially hazardous to our planet, and none are expected in the next hundred years or so.

But wait long enough, and it will happen.

We know that from the geological record — for example, the six-mile wide Chicxulub asteroid struck Earth 66 million years ago, plunging the world into a long winter that led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs along with 75 percent of all species.

An asteroid the size of Dimorphos, by contrast, would only cause a regional impact, such as devastating a city, albeit with greater force than any nuclear bomb in history.

How much momentum DART imparts on Dimorphos will depend on whether the asteroid is solid rock, or more like a “rubbish pile” of boulders bound by mutual gravity — a property that’s not yet known.

If it had missed, NASA would have another shot in two years’ time, with the spaceship containing just enough fuel for another pass.

But its success marks the first step toward a world capable of defending itself from a future existential threat.

“I think Earthlings can sleep better, definitely I will,” said DART mission systems engineer Elena Adams.

Google celebrates Saudi National Day with Doodle

Google celebrates Saudi National Day with Doodle
Updated 23 September 2022

Google celebrates Saudi National Day with Doodle

Google celebrates Saudi National Day with Doodle
  • Doodle marks the Kingdom’s 92nd national day

LONDON: Google has joined Saudi Arabia in the celebrating of its national day with one of its famous Google Doodles, with an image of the Kingdom’s flag on the search engine’s homepage on Friday.

Only visible in Saudi Arabia, the doodle marks the Kingdom’s 92nd national day – known in Arabic as Al-Yaom-ul-Watany.

It was in 1932 that a royal decree was signed calling for the unification of the dual Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Google doodle features the Kingdom’s green flag which was adopted in 1973.