JEDDAH: Global video streaming giant Netflix recently released a specially curated collection of 21 Arab films in 2022 by women filmmakers spanning various genres, including documentaries, drama, and romance, as part of a dedicated collection titled “Because She Created.”
During the first six days of the Red Sea International Film Festival, Netflix hosted a creative space at Red Sea Souk to celebrate the pioneering spirit of four iconic women filmmakers from the Arab world, including Hana Al-Omair from Saudi Arabia, Hend Sabri and Kaouther Ben Hania from Tunisia, and Jordan’s Tima Shomali.
The space aims to amplify women filmmakers’ voices to an international audience of esteemed industry professionals and future generations of female storytellers throughout the “Because She Created” platform so that more stories from the Arab world can be loved globally.
Al-Omair and Shomali showed up on the fifth day of the RSIFF for media junkets.
Al-Omair told Arab News that she likes to add a female element to her working crew because it adds balance.
“I personally think that in front and behind of the camera, the more female characters, the better, because it is always about the stories by nature, which are always revolving around untold female stories.”
Al-Omair is an award-winning director and the woman behind the first Saudi thriller drama series on Netflix, “Whispers.”
She said that “Whispers” reflects on-the-ground women’s empowerment through screen.
“There are so many women working in a different field that we haven’t heard of on the screen,” she said: adding: “Netflix was the perfect platform for displaying my series as it helped to narrate the story of Saudi women in an unusual way.
“I am so happy with the new change that the Saudi film industry is experiencing, especially with more females behind cameras and on-screen, and actresses. All this would support more content and female stories to rise.”
Netflix has a special collection of Saudi content. For women filmmakers, it started with “Wadjda,” the work of iconic Saudi film director Haifaa Al-Mansour.
Shomali is director of “AlRawabi School for Girls,” a first-of-its-kind young adult series in the Arab region.
The six-episode series tells the story of a bullied high school girl who gathers together a group of outcasts to plot the perfect revenge on their tormentors.
Shomali is also a producer and scriptwriter. She told Arab News: “I am so happy to take part in this initiative that supports young Arab filmmakers, which is something I personally advocate for as it represents my work in terms of women empowering women in the industry.”
She added: “I feel like it is my responsibility to support female emerging talents in filmmaking because I did not have an easy journey, and a lot of people on the way gave me an opportunity to rise, and now I am interested to give back an opportunity for those young females passionate about the film industry.”
Netflix launched the “Because She Created” platform last year as a virtual panel talk hosting Arab women filmmakers discussing the evolving role of women in the industry.
Nuha El-Tayeb, director of Netflix content acquisitions in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey was also present at this year’s event.
She told Arab News: “What’s important for us is bringing Arabic stories from our region targeting the local market and at the same time for them to have that option to travel across the world … one and foremost is our support for female filmmakers, whether they are in front of the screen or behind the screen.”
The Netflix collection aims to give more people the chance to see their lives reflected on screen and entice new audiences to discover the work of women storytellers from the Arab world.
El-Tayeb added: “Yes, we want to support women. We want to bring these amazing movies to one place where people can watch it and enjoy the movies, and it’s a start to many more coming down the line with what we have created now.”
The collection celebrates the creativity of the Arab world’s greatest women storytellers, including the works of brilliant directors from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia.