News Column

Reaching for stars

October 6, 2013


Oct. 06--A BAHRAIN resident could become the first Saudi woman to be nominated for an Oscar.

Haifaa Al Mansour, who is the country's first female film director, has already received several international awards for her movie Wadjda.

Shot in Riyadh in 2012, it unravels the story of a 10-year-old Saudi girl, who dreamed of buying a bicycle to race her male friend.

She decides to take up a Quran reciting competition to collect money, facing many cultural and social obstacles in her way.

The 97-minute film was recognised at the Cannes Film Festival and won Best Film at Dubai Film Festival.

It has now been entered, by Saudi Arabia, to be considered as a candidate for the list of nominees in the Best Foreign Film category for next year's Academy Awards.

The movie has premiered in several countries worldwide, including the UK, Belgium, Italy, Holland and Switzerland and is making its way to the Gulf.

"I am so honoured for having the film chosen for the Oscars," Ms Al Mansour told the GDN.

"The movie has been registered by Saudi Arabia which is the first time for them to enter a movie to represent the country.

"Shortlists will be announced in January, ahead of the awards ceremony to be held in March."

The University of Sydney Film Studies master's graduate decided to write a script which talks about the reality of life for women in Saudi Arabia to try and empower them.

It took five years to complete due to the busy lifestyle that she leads as a mother of two children -- Adam, five, and Hayle, three.

"I am into everyday life stories and women's issues, not politics," she said.

"But I want to give voice to people and what others do not understand about Saudi as they have not seen it.

Shooting the movie was also a challenge for Ms Al Mansour in conservative Riyadh, where she had to direct young actress Wa'ad Mohammed through a walkie-talkie and monitor the outdoor scenes from a van through the eight weeks of work.

"I wanted to make sure the film is very real and so I decided to shoot it in Riyadh neighbourhoods," said the 38-year-old.

"It was a challenge as I could not guide the actress face to face so as to not create problems.

"All I wanted to do was to make a movie and not clash with anyone."

The movie could be screened in Bahrain this month to coincide with the Eid Al Adha celebrations.

Growing up in a family of 12 children, Ms Al Mansour was introduced to movies through her father.

She initially made a name for herself through various short films, including Women Without Shadows released in 2005, which is a 44-minute documentary that illustrates the life of women.


(c)2013 the Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)

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