The World’s 100 Most Powerful Arab Women
Mon 03 Mar 2014 03:25 AM
Haifa Al Mansour

Haifa Al Mansour

Industry: Arts and entertainment

Designation: Film director

Country: Saudi Arabia

Haifa Al Mansour has done more than most to give the planet a glimpse into the conservative world of Saudi Arabia.

Last year, her film Wadjda was the first Saudi movie to be entered into the Oscars, as Best Foreign Language Film. Although Wadjda did not win, the film won numerous awards, including three prizes at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

Wadjda tells the story of a rebellious girl who dreams of owning a green bicycle. Al Mansour was forced to direct her first film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some areas where she could not be seen in public. Despite the fact that she was regularly heckled during filming, she felt the responsibility to tell a story often ignored by the world’s media. “I tried to be very close to my roots and show things that were very intimate about Saudi women away from what we see in the news,” she said.

The film director, who is a backer of the campaign to allow women to drive in her home country, says she has received death threats for her views from local conservatives.

“I want to do stories about embracing life and hope and empowering girls, it’s very dear to me to make things like this,” she told the New Statesman last year. “But the way I do it is very soft. I try to avoid being controversial, but in Saudi you can’t avoid it. Any woman voicing her opinion will be seen as controversial.”