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Crosscurrents logo 2021

Film of first Saudi Arabian female director showing in the Bay Area


We’re used to making movies here in California, but there are still places in the world where that art form is rare. Like in Saudi Arabia, which recently submitted an entry to the Foreign Film category of the Academy Awards for the first time ever. 

The film entered is called Wadjda -- filmed completely in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by a woman now known as the country's first female director HaifaaAl-Mansour. The film tells the story of a little girl named Wadjda who has one big dream: to own and ride a bicycle and race her friend Abdallah. 

Wadjda is playing in theaters throughout the Bay Area through the end of the month. Director HaifaaAl-Mansour came by our studios and KALW's Hana Baba asked her how she became interested in film.

HAIFAA AL-MANSOUR:  When you film in Riyadh, you have to get permission to film and if I were a little bit more radical I might not get that. So I wanted to work within what is available for me and just make a story that is emotionally engaging about the child. The country is gender-segregated, so men and women are not expected to work together in public, so I had always to be in a van when we are outside. It’s a regular van, but they installed a monitor so I can see the scenes, and I had a walkie-talkie so I can speak to everyone when they are out there in the scenes. For me it was very rewarding just to be able to make a film in Saudi, and if we have to stay in a van, then we’ll stay in a van. I don’t want to clash with the culture. I am a women making a film in Saudi so that is enough.

Click the audio player above to listen to the complete interview. 

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.