This article is published in issue 36 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 6 September 2022
It is the small stories that make the most noise, that overcome the boundaries of language and culture, because in simple events all human beings recognize each other. The five women – actresses, screenwriters and directors from the Arab world – are convinced of this as they are committed to bringing their version of the story to the widest possible audience. For none it was easy to overcome prejudices and difficulties, but today they are proud to have opened the doors to the talent and creativity of many other women, not only in their respective countries of origin. These artists will be celebrated at the gala at Palazzo Rocca in Venice, on 2 September, organized by Vanity Fair and Red Sea International Film Festival during the 79th Venice International Film Festival. “We honor these brilliant talents who are emerging in the world of cinema, fight stereotypes and bring a new narrative to the screen”, underlines Mohammed Al Turki, CEO of RSIFF.
The Red Sea International Film Festival – RSIFF is a non-profit foundation, born within the Saudi Vision 2030, the ambitious reform program that aims to develop, among other aspects, culture, education and tourism in Saudi Arabia. After 35 years of total ban on attending the
cinema (the theaters reopened in 2018), the RSIFF’s goal is to spread film culture in the country, while the linked Red Sea Fund financially supports the production and promotion of Arab and African films and documentaries.
In Venice, the RSIFF is a partner of the Final Cut in Venice project, which wants to give concrete help to the post-production of films from Africa, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. It has also financed five feature films that will be screened in the Orizzonti Extra sections and at the Giornate degli Autori. Exciting stories ranging from the impossible love of a young refugee in Beirut (Dirty, Difficult, Dangerous by Wissam Charaf) to the vicissitudes of two teenagers during the Syrian civil war (Nezouh by director Soudade Kaadan), to a grandiose costume drama about the brave Algerian queen Zaphira, set in 1516 (The Last Queen by Damien Ounouri and Adila Bendimerad).
The official appointment for Arab cinema is then the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, from 1 to 10 December. Last year over one hundred works from 67 countries were screened with a jury chaired by Giuseppe Tornatore. And the second edition promises to be interesting.
42 years old, Tunisian actress and producer
With a degree in law and over 40 roles to his credit, between the big and the small screen, he is a well-known face throughout the Arab world, especially in Tunisia, his country of origin, and in Egypt, his adopted home. “As a woman acting hasn’t always been an easy journey. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot to do. I have the same passion as when I debuted at 14 and I hope to see more and more stories that reflect people’s real lives in the future, ”she said. To capture all the versatility of this busy actress – she is also an ambassador of the United Nations World Food Program – you can see the Finding Ola series on Netflix, which ironically tells the second life of a 40-year-old divorcee struggling with a new job. Among the titles of her prolific career, we mention Asmaa (2011), the first Egyptian film to empathize with the story of an HIV-positive woman, and the drama Noura’s Dream (2019), in which the protagonist tries to rebuild a life after her husband’s arrest. “As a filmmaker, producer or artist, we have a duty to make the people we represent feel. In the future I hope to see more stories with real Arab women, because the more authentic and local the stories are, the more universal they can become ».
KAOUTHER BEN HANIA
45 years old, Tunisian director and screenwriter
She has no limits as a creator of stories: she is now working on a science fiction project
artificial intelligence, while the two films for which he is famous are linked to contemporaneity. The man who sold his skin (2020) tells the story of a Syrian refugee who gives his back to an artist for money and thus becomes his living work of art. Inspired by a true story, it was presented in Venice and then nominated for an Oscar as best international film. His first success is dedicated to another case in the news Beauty and the Beasts (2017): the story revolves around a rape committed in Tunisia by some policemen, which the victim tries to report amidst silence from colleagues and people’s opinions. “I have always been fascinated by the figure of Sherazade of One Thousand and One Nights», Says the director,« it symbolically represents the power to tell stories. In her case, this talent of her manages to save her from her death at the hands of her husband, kidnapped by her stories ». “A film is like a high-level marathon. It takes years of your life and you can’t prepare yourself the day before. It takes discipline and a lot of work. You have to forge your own vision of the world and be able to say something interesting “
33-year-old actress from Saudi Arabia
As a child, she enjoyed making home movies with her siblings, then forcing the whole family to watch them. After graduating in marketing in England and a few years as a manager, she realized that she was not her way. Today she is considered the rising star of Saudi cinema, she acts in Arabic and English and undoubtedly has the fascination for piercing the small and the big screen. she has become popular with Rashash (2021), thriller series that traces the story of a criminal of the 80s, only to find himself haunted by the “bad” Billy Zane in the psychological thriller Rupture (2021). Today she prepares for her starring debut in Junoon (2022), an adventure horror set between Saudi Arabia and California. “I firmly believe that we women will get what we deserve,” says the actress, “if we take the initiative, new opportunities will emerge. I am very proud of myself and of my dreams and the only way for me to grow is to continue to face new challenges ».
«Woman means life. Imagine a world without us, it’s not possible! We are sacred creatures. We spread love, care, passion and compassion for everyone and everything we touch “
41-year-old Saudi actress and director
“As an Arab woman it is easier for others to label me oppressed or submissive, instead of understanding the depth and nuances of my experience. Now more than ever we need stories that tell the wealth of experiences of this world: only through different points of view can we understand what unites us as human beings “. she was born in Jeddah, but she moved as a young girl to New York to study film and acting. After directing some short films, she stars in the film The green bicycle (2012) by Haifaa al-Mansour (see profile below). Today she works in Arabic and English and has participations in productions of the BBC (the mini detective series Collateral with Carey Mulligan) and another drama series, Honor, about the honor murder of a girl by her family. His latest project on Prime Video is the thriller film The dinner of the spies (2022) with Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton.
“No matter where we are in the world, we are all born, love and feel sadness and joys. Our culture and our history color our experiences, but we connect on a human level thanks to stories ».
48 years old, Saudi director and screenwriter
She began to love cinema as a child, when her father, a Saudi poet, secretly procured films for the family during the years it was still illegal. After her studies in Cairo and Sydney, ten years ago she earned the title of first Saudi director, to applause, abroad, and criticism from conservatives in her country. Today she still loves to remember the presentation at the Venice Film Festival of her first film, which she wrote and directed, The green bicycle (2012): the story of a little girl who saves money to buy a bike against the wishes of her parents and society. The ideal candidate (2019) always tells the story of a woman against the tide, a doctor who is a candidate for a municipal council of men only. As well as Mary Shelley (2017): Under the veneer of costume drama, the story of the famous English writer – played by Elle Fanning – is that of a woman struggling to gain proper recognition and deserved happiness. “At first the idea of becoming a director was extravagant, but I felt that
the world was curious to hear our voice and that cinema
of our country could also excite the international public “
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