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.

Hia Hub opens 2nd annual fashion hub, placing spotlight on Saudi fashion scene

Hia Hub opens 2nd annual fashion hub, placing spotlight on Saudi fashion scene
Updated 09 December 2022

Hia Hub opens 2nd annual fashion hub, placing spotlight on Saudi fashion scene

Hia Hub opens 2nd annual fashion hub, placing spotlight on Saudi fashion scene
  • Event marks rapid rise of Kingdom’s fashion industry, with Riyadh as new regional hub
  • 3-day event sees attendance of US designer Zac Posen, model Amber Valletta and entrepreneur Mona Kattan

RIYADH: A fashionably dressed crowd donning elegant abayas and upscale streetwear paired with high-end accessories made its way once again into the sleekly decorated Hia Hub, a platform for fashion, beauty, art and culture spearheaded by Hia magazine in the JAX creative district of Riyadh’s historic Diriyah area.
The three-day program, which also marks the magazine’s 30-year anniversary, kicked off Thursday night and runs until Dec. 10. It features a program of workshops, talks, master classes by luxury brands such as Piaget, exhibitions and the display and sale of regional and international fashion, jewelry and accessory brands.
“When Hia was launched 30 years ago, we made a promise to share the stories of Arab women and become their ultimate reference point, serving all of their interests, and today will celebrate the fulfillment of that promise,” Mai Badr, editor-in-chief of Hia, said during her opening keynote speech on the first day.
This year’s hub, larger in scale and content than its first edition, reflected Saudi Arabia’s growing fashion industry and Riyadh’s position as a burgeoning hub for the regional and global fashion scene — a fact demonstrated by the increased number of international brands, designers and fashion personalities slated to attend over the event’s three-day duration. These include US fashion designer Zac Posen, fashion model Amber Valletta and Iraqi US beauty entrepreneur Mona Kattan.
“Arabic luxury fashion is a means of self-expression, creating a dialogue that engages people from all parts of the world,” said Posen during his keynote speech. “In many ways, it is a global reflection of the culture around us. Today, fashion plays an ever-increasing role in forming and representing women in their multifaceted and elegant lives.”
The fashion industry, like other sectors in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is rising rapidly. According to Statista, the fashion sector in the Kingdom is projected to grow by 18.97 percent from 2022 to 2027, resulting in a market volume of $8.56 billion in 2027.
“Saudi Arabia is our second biggest market,” Stephanie Legg, senior vice president at Threads Styling, a 12-year-old UK-based personal styling platform acquired this year by Chalhoub, the Dubai-based largest retailer operator in the Middle East. “We’ve got a really loyal, incredible client base here. Threads’ first business was in the Middle East, so the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, is a really important market to us,” Legg said. It was Threads’ second time participating. “Last year was much smaller,” added Legg.
Among the local brands exhibited was Saudi designer Mohammed Khoja’s brand Hindamme, offering a fusion of Eastern and Western contemporary styles. Khoja is one Saudi designer gaining increased visibility internationally. His designs are now on display at the V&A Museum in London.
Taking up the entirety of a large glass vitrine was the mesmerizing “Sherihan” dress by Adnan Akbar, dubbed the Kingdom’s first couture designer. The dress was made in 1987 and shown that same year in the Trocadero Gardens in Paris.
A variety of master classes on offer aim to teach attendees vital creative and entrepreneurial skills pertinent to work in the luxury market.
Workshops include jewelry styling with Swarovski, fashion styling with Law Roach in partnership with Harvey Nichols, and master classes with Piaget on diamonds, watch and jewelry making. There is also a design master class with Zac Posen.
Another highlight to discover is watch brand Richard Mille’s exhibition of Saudi painter Faisal Alkheriji, titled “Art in the Gulf.” The show marks the first motion sensory exhibition to combine AI and leap motion technology, providing an interactive experience of Alkheriji’s portrayals of Saudi culture through his abstract and vibrant paintings. The exhibition complements the launch of the brand’s inaugural “Art in the Gulf” book, launched in early November this year, where they first discovered Alkheriji’s work.
The week kicked off with a panel chaired by veteran Arab fashion journalist Jamila Halfichi with Burak Cakmak, fashion designer and CEO of the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s Fashion Commission, as well as Elie Saab Junior. The panel tackled fashion’s role in climate change, as well as our fast-paced, technological world and its role in preserving the cultural narratives of the Middle East and forging cross-cultural dialogue.
“When you’re in a place like Saudi, you can actually tap into your own local community, not just to create, but also to sell, create new solutions and test your products,” said Cakmak. “The growing demand for fashion in the Kingdom allows Saudis to start in their home country first and then expand abroad, and that is exciting.”

Ugandan president’s son agrees to take over from his father — if he gets enough likes on Twitter

Muhoozi Kainerugaba. (Wikipedia)
Muhoozi Kainerugaba. (Wikipedia)
Updated 07 December 2022

Ugandan president’s son agrees to take over from his father — if he gets enough likes on Twitter

Muhoozi Kainerugaba. (Wikipedia)
  • Muhoozi Kainerugaba said he has no ambition to lead his country but could be convinced to do it if there was good enough response to his offer on the social media platform
  • As of Tuesday evening, a day after the tweet was posted, it had racked up more than 2,100 retweets and 7,400 likes; Uganda has a population of more than 47 million

DUBAI: Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the son of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, said that he will succeed his father — if he gets enough likes on Twitter.

Kainerugaba, a general in his country’s armed forces and a prolific tweeter, wrote on Monday: “Okay, let those who want me to be president after my father retweet and like. If you convince me, I will do it.”

As of Tuesday evening, the tweet had racked up more than 2,100 retweets and 7,400 likes. Uganda has a population of more than 47 million.

Kainerugaba, who is commonly referred to by his first name, which means “avenger,” has a track record of ambitious tweets. For example, he previously offered to give Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni a gift of 100 cows. “In our culture you give a girl you like a cow,” he wrote. He has also shared musings about the possibility of invading Kenya.

In response to previous criticism of his tweets, and an apparent suggestion by a journalist in Kenya that he be banned from Twitter, Kainerugaba posted a message in October that said: “I am an adult and NO ONE will ban me from anything!”

While Kainerugaba’s latest tweet might seem to be just his latest bizarre and outrageous comment, some observers have suggested that it might very well be part of a carefully considered political strategy, as his 78-year-old father, who has been Uganda’s ruler since 1986, is thought to be grooming him to take the reins of power.

“That family controls Uganda,” said Peter Kagwanja, president and CEO of the Africa Policy Institute. “His mother is in the cabinet and he is the prince, waiting to succeed his father.

“Muhoozi provokes, then his father arranges for him to go and apologize, and in this way he is introduced into the circles of leaders.”

However, Kainerugaba denies any ambition to rule his country. In a message posted immediately before the one saying that he would take over from his father if he got enough retweets and likes, he wrote: “Some people keep saying I want to be president? Frankly speaking that has never been in my mind.”

Time will tell whether he gets enough likes and retweets to convince him to change his mind.

Not everyone in Uganda enjoys as much freedom on Twitter. Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, a prominent Ugandan author and lawyer, has said he was tortured while in detention after sharing a series of tweets that were judged to be insulting to Kainerugaba and his father.


NASA’s Orion spaceship slingshots around Moon, heads for home

NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
Updated 06 December 2022

NASA’s Orion spaceship slingshots around Moon, heads for home

NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
  • The European Service Module, which powers the capsule, fired its main engine for over three minutes to put the gumdrop-shaped Orion on course for home

WASHINGTON: NASA’s Orion spaceship made a close pass of the Moon and used a gravity assist to whip itself back toward Earth on Monday, marking the start of the return journey for the Artemis-1 mission.
At its nearest point, the uncrewed capsule flew less than 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the surface, testing maneuvers that will be used during later Artemis missions that return humans to the rocky celestial body.
Communication with the capsule was interrupted for 30 minutes when it was behind the far side of the Moon — an area more cratered than the near side and first seen by humans during the Apollo era, although they didn’t land there.
The European Service Module, which powers the capsule, fired its main engine for over three minutes to put the gumdrop-shaped Orion on course for home.
“We couldn’t be more pleased about how the spacecraft is performing,” Debbie Korth, Orion Program deputy manager, said later.
As spectacular footage flashed on their screens once communication was restored, she told a news conference, “everybody in the room, we just kind of had to stop and pause, and just really look — Wow, we’re saying goodbye to the moon.”
Monday’s was the last major maneuver of the mission, which began when NASA’s mega Moon rocket SLS blasted off from Florida on November 16. From start to finish, the journey should last 25 and a half days.
Orion will now make only slight course corrections until it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on Sunday, December 11 at 9:40 am local time (1740 GMT). It will then be recovered and hoisted aboard a US Navy ship.
Earlier in the mission, Orion spent about six days in “distant retrograde orbit” around the Moon, meaning at high altitude and traveling opposite the direction the Moon revolves around Earth.
A week ago, Orion broke the distance record for a habitable capsule, venturing 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) from our planet.
Once it returns to Earth, Orion will have traveled more than 1.4 million miles, said Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager.
Re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere will present a harsh test for the spacecraft’s heat shield, which will need to withstand temperatures of around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800degrees Celsius) — or about half the surface of the Sun.
Under the Artemis program — named for the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — the United States is seeking to build a lasting presence on the Moon in preparation for an onward voyage to Mars.
Artemis 2 will involve a crewed journey to the Moon, once again without landing.
The first woman and next man are to land on the lunar south pole during Artemis 3, which is set for no sooner than 2025, though likely significantly later given timeline delays.


England fan shouts ‘free Palestine’ during live Israeli TV broadcast from World Cup in Qatar

England fan shouts ‘free Palestine’ during live Israeli TV broadcast from World Cup in Qatar
Updated 06 December 2022

England fan shouts ‘free Palestine’ during live Israeli TV broadcast from World Cup in Qatar

England fan shouts ‘free Palestine’ during live Israeli TV broadcast from World Cup in Qatar
  • He grabbed the microphone while the reporter was interviewing a group of supporters following England’s 3-0 victory over Senegal on Sunday
  • A video clip of the incident spread rapidly on social media, with many people commending the fan for his support for the Palestinian people

LONDON: An England football fan shouted “Free Palestine” during a live Israeli TV broadcast from the World Cup in Qatar, shocking the journalist who was interviewing him after England’s 3-0 victory over Senegal on Sunday.

The Israeli reporter had asked a group of England fans whether they thought football was coming home, a reference to the chant popular among the country’s supporters during World Cup campaigns.

“Of course, it is,” they replied before, according to the Daily Mail, Harry Hatton, 23, grabbed the microphone and yelled: “But more importantly, free Palestine.”

Many Twitter users retweeted the video clip and commended Hatton for his support for the Palestinian people.

Several videos have gone viral on social media showing football fans refusing to speak with the Israeli media during the World Cup in Qatar.

Stars at Red Sea Film Festival praise Saudi’s ‘history and beauty’

Stars at Red Sea Film Festival praise Saudi’s ‘history and beauty’
Updated 05 December 2022

Stars at Red Sea Film Festival praise Saudi’s ‘history and beauty’

Stars at Red Sea Film Festival praise Saudi’s ‘history and beauty’
  • Actress Jessica Alba found people in Saudi to be "warm and lovely."
  • Filmmaker Oliver Stone highlighted the importance of open-mindedness in the industry.

JEDDAH: Celebrities in Jeddah for the Red Sea Film Festival, held from Dec. 1 to 10, expressed their delight to be exploring Saudi Arabia’s heritage and beauty.

American actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba, who donned an Elie Saab design, described Saudi Arabia as “a really, really beautiful country,” and said: “The history here is insane, and the people are just warm and lovely.

“I’ve had a great time, and I hope to come back,” added the “Fantastic Four” star.

Actress Sharon Stone, who gave an impassioned speech about women’s empowerment during one of the festival’s talks, said that it’s “really great and smart” that Netflix was making a deal in Saudi Arabia.

“We need to see every aspect of the world — all of the world,” she explained, “so that other people do not get to tell us how the world is in their opinion, (so) that we actually get to see how the world is.”

In an interview on Sunday, filmmaker and screenwriter Oliver Stone, who said during the event’s opening ceremony that Saudi Arabia was misrepresented by Western media, emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind.

“If I close my mind, I would become as ignorant as many of our politicians are,” he said.

The three-time Oscar winner added: “The problem in the United States is that we have two oceans, and we are huge; we have everything we think we need, and we do not have much interest in going to other countries and living what they are living.

“I think, as a result, we become arrogant and aloof, and we tend to dictate orders. Because of the power that we think we have, we tend to tell other countries what to do, or lecture them on human rights and stuff like that, whereas, meanwhile, we are (punishing) people like Julian Assange…for revealing war crimes.”

Citing what he referred to as the “hypocrisy” of the US position internationally, he continued:

“The rest of the world…(doesn’t) buy the American ‘We are better than you; we are telling you how to live your lives.’ They don’t buy it, and a lot of people do not like America for that reason.”

In his speech during the Red Sea Film Festival opening ceremony on Thursday night, the director and producer pointed out that Saudi Arabia was “misunderstood in the present world” and said: “You see the changes that are coming here, the reforms. I think people who judge too harshly should come and visit this place and see for themselves.”