The Dubai International Film Festival opens this week for its 12th edition; featuring around 140 international films and featuring a strong Saudi female presence.
Among the female film makers, directors and producers is Haifa al-Mansour, Saudi’s first female film maker who received much critical acclaim for her courageous take on taboos and cultural controversy.
Her new project, “Miss Camel”, tells the story of Hayla, a Saudi teen who will do anything to escape her arranged marriage and fulfil her goal of attending art school outside of Saudi Arabia. While planning to make her way to the in-person interview for the art college in another Gulf state, Hayla makes a startling discovery whilst at a wedding – she can talk to animals.
Melwah, a camel that she sees every day with a Bedouin boy named Isa, confronts her about her plan and convinces Hayla to accompany her to the Miss Camel beauty pageant across the border. With the assumption that Hayla has stolen Melwah, Isa follows them on their dangerous and exciting desert trek.
As well as presenting “Miss Camel’, Haifaa will also be sharing a movie based on the life of British Author Mary Shelley, her romantic relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley and how it inspired her to write the revered novel, Frankenstein. With a star studded cast, including Maisie Williams, Elle Fanning and Ben Hardy, the movie was screened in October 2017 at the Toronto Film Festival.
Mansour is a nominee for the 2017 IWC Film Maker Award.
Also showing at the festival will be Hanaa Saleh Alfassi, known as one of the most prominent upcoming Saudi directors, will be sharing a controversial on-screen narrative called “Halawa”, depicting a young girl’s struggle to hide the fact that she had reached the age of puberty in order to avoid wearing the hijab.
Alfassi’s other titles, previously featured in Saudi Arabia’s last film festival, are Hadaf and AlSuhoor Alakheer.
Other Saudi women film makers to watch out for include Hend al-Fahhad, Deya Yousef, and Hajar al-Naim.