The Saudi female filmmaker shares how she made her dream a reality.
Saudi is my home. I was born, grew up and lived here my whole life in the kingdom. I am a rarity, not just in Saudi but the world: a female filmmaker. Across the globe, the industry is male dominated and only 24 per cent of film directors are women. I am one.
Being a filmmaker looks glamorous on the outside. And it is, but in reality, it involves inconsistent sleep, and some madness for trying to make something from what only you can see. I believe that art must be honest. If we do it to get validation or fame, then I’d end up with poor results. Generally, the industry is made for people who enjoy suffering for their art, and people who appreciate beauty.
In Saudi Arabia, the idea of being a filmmaker was humourous to most people, since we had no film industry and no cinemas. And the art fields generally were considered just hobbies, not a dream to base your career. I still struggle to get people around me to understand that being a filmmaker means being financially unstable. To be a full-time artist means sacrificing comfort for soul.
As the film industry is still being established, I’ve had opportunities but also setbacks. For me, every step I take in this field is harder than the one before. When I graduated in 2010, I studied graphic design. We didn’t have any film schools or production companies. Despite this, if I’m honest with myself, my biggest hurdle was fear.
Imposter syndrome often hits people when they feel different. I would ask myself: am I good enough? What if I fail? Am I making the right career choice? It was only when I was sent to La Fémis, a French state film school under Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, that I learned how to overcome this fear.
After this, I was able to make an independent film called Kabreet, which was released in 2022. The film follows Osama, a young man who is fighting between his emotions and memories. The film starred my good friend Naif Aldaferi, whose trust in me during the project made me believe in myself.
Today, I’m glad that I have the opportunity be in the cinema. When I saw my film on the big screen, it was a dream come true. It was the most surreal moment of my life. I overcame my fear.
Not only have I managed to achieve a part of my dream, I surpassed it. I even made a soundtrack that I composed and sang myself for the film, and I am now working on my EP and will be releasing music.
Today, women in Saudi Arabia who dream to become filmmakers have hope presented to them. We can explore our career, passions and discover ourselves. It brings me great joy that there are countless production companies making commercials, documentaries, music videos and cinema. Plus, the Effat International Student Film Festival is dedicated entirely to student film projects.
Now, I have replaced that fear with hope. I hope one day Saudi Arabia becomes a leader in cinema. I hope we develop enough wealth in the arts to sustain the industry in the future. And, I hope that the next generation of filmmakers across the world can look up to us.
But the truth is, sometimes, all we need is just one person to genuinely see and believe in us. I hope we can support each other more, as that’s the simplest form of kindness. That’s all a person needs to achieve great things.
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