7 Movies to Watch by Leading Female Arab Filmmakers

Female filmmakers are dominating the Middle East – from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, these are the must-watch movies that have made an impact on the big screen – and our hearts.

Image: Wadjda film

Wadjda
by Haifa al-Mansour

Haifa al-Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker, whose feature film Wadjda made waves in the Kingdom for its storyline following a rebellious Saudi girl who enters a Quran competition to win money to buy herself a bike. The first film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia by a woman, al-Mansour’s gift comes from being able to make a statement on contemporary Saudi society without shocking it.

Image: Scales film

Scales
by Shahad Ameen 

Shahad Ameen is a Saudi writer and director, whose debut film Scales is the perfect dystopian tale. Based on Arabic folklore, the film follows a young girl named Hayat who rebels against her traditional fishing village where female children are sacrificed to evil sea creatures. The film explores themes of patriarchy, feminism and tradition with poetic precision and cinematography.

Image: Capernaum film

Capernaum
by Nadine Labaki

Lebanese actress, director and activist, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum became Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.  The film tells the story of Zain (played by Syrian refugee actor Zain Al Rafeea), a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the “crime” of giving him life as he tries to survive the streets from which he came.

Image: Sounds of the Sea film

Sounds of the Sea
by Nujoom Al Ghanem

A breakout female filmmaker in the UAE, Nujoom Al Ghanem is the Emirati director, writer and poet who overcame societal stigma and family disapproval to follow her craft. Sounds of the Sea portrays a quaint fishing village in Um Al Quwain, beautifully framing its inhabitants as they reminisce about a time that once was.

Image: For Sama film

For Sama
by Waad Al-Kataeb

Waad Al-Kateab is a Syrian journalist, filmmaker, and activist. Her documentary, For Sama, was nominated for four BAFTAs at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards, winning Best Documentary, and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards. The raw-like film was shot over a five-year time period in Aleppo, documenting her life during the war as Al-Kataeb experiences love, marriage, and the birth of her daughter, Sama.

Image: The Square film

The Square
by Jehane Noujaim

This Lebanese-American, Harvard-educated director garnered fame for her Netflix hit The Great Hack. But it’s her most recent film, The Square, that won her an Oscar nomination – with its authentic portrayal of Egypt, its people and the city centres that led to the 2011 revolution.

Image: 3000 Nights film

3000 Nights
by Mai Masri

Mai Masri is a Palestinian filmmaker, director and producer whose films document the strife of women and children living in occupied Palestinian territories and Lebanon. In this heartfelt film, Masri recounts the story of a Palestinian woman who fights to protect her newborn son in an Israeli prison.

By Helena Devincenti

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