Haifaa Al Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s first female film director, has seen her film ‘Wadjda’ chosen as the kingdom’s first ever official submission for an Academy Award.
The movie, about a young girl in Riyadh trying to earn enough money to buy a bicycle, will be considered for shortlisting in the Oscars’ foreign language category.
‘Wadjda’ was this weekend screened in Los Angeles where it is estimated that 1,000 people turned up to see the film. It is being distributed in the US by Sony Pictures Classics, whose movies have a track record for winning the foreign language prize.
"I am so thrilled to hear the news," Mansour was quoted as saying. "It means that Saudi Arabia is recognising film as an art form. It's a very hopeful sign."
Film screenings have been banned in culturally conservative Saudi Arabia since the 1970s, although a handful of directors have emerged in recent years. "A lot of people don't want films [in Saudi Arabia] because they think it's corrupt — especially the conservatives," Mansour added.
Al Mansour is the first major female filmmaker to emerge from Saudi Arabia and is already regarded as one of its most significant cinematic figures.
She studied comparative literature at the American University in Cairo, completed a Master’s degree in Film Studies at the University of Sydney and the success of her first film saw her listed by Hollywood trade magazine Variety as one of the ‘10 Director’s to Watch’ in 2013.