Hello reddit. I am the first Saudi Arabian female filmmaker. The film is the first film ever to be shot in Saudi Arabia; the film, WADJDA, is being very well-received around the world (it has played in England, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and is opening in the United States September 13th).

WADJDA is a coming of age story about a 10 year old in Saudi Arabia who is determined to get a green bicycle. It's a film to show the everyday in life in Saudi, and it's a film about embracing hope and pushing for change. Here is the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2Q2JvhWjyE

I look forward to taking your questions and catching up with you all.

Twitter proof: https://twitter.com/HaifaaMansour/status/377520564476182528

Edit: Thank you so much guys for your time and the amazing questions. Hope to catch up with you soon again. Thank you for checking out the film in theatres this weekend in LA and New York, nationwide the week after.

Comments: 179 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

dobi90056 karma

Hala Haifa, as a Saudi, I just wanted to say I'm proud to see progress among my people and show the world we are not all like we are perceived in the western media and it's all thanks to awesome people like you.

My Question, where do you see the future of cinema in Saudi is going? Do you think Theaters will be re-opend again in the next five years?

Btw, if you have the time come visit us Saudis here at r/SaudiArabia

HaifaaAlMansour38 karma

Thank you for your kind words. We need to work harder to explain our culture, and promote tolerance and acceptance both from within and outside. It's a lot of work as you may know.

I don't know about 5 years about cinema coming back. I hope sooner but you never know. I'll definitely join you at /r/SaudiArabia.

svenniola28 karma

fuck yeah.

(on being the first female film maker in saudi arabia.)

about fucking time. :*)

HaifaaAlMansour47 karma

Thank you! I am technically doing two firsts: I shot the first film ever inside Saudi Arabia, and I am the first female filmmaker. But I am doing it all because I am trying to tell a story, I was not trying to collect a first trophy. Feminists embrace the film with a lot of love.

svenniola8 karma

of course, or you would not be an artist (true film maker.)

the female part of it is just a wonderful news to hear about the world.

(i do not think about whether something is the work of males or females, i have seen and heard truly amazing work from either sex, losing the art of either sex would equally dim the world.)

HaifaaAlMansour17 karma


chooter23 karma

What was your favorite part about making the film?

HaifaaAlMansour59 karma

I think the actual shooting. It was very stressful in Saudi in some parts. The country was segregated, I had to be in a van in some parts because men and women are not allowed to work together. We would communicate over walkie-talkie and I had a monitor in the van to be able to see everything. But it felt amazing to be able to make a film in Saudi and be able to bring art into the Kingdom.

There are no movie theatres in Saudi. So people most likely will see the film there when it comes on DVD. And, honestly, in this time and age, they will most likely see it online.

HaifaaAlMansour38 karma

The least favorite part was financing. People did not believe in the film and asking for money is not my favorite part. I was able to find some people from Razorfilm in Germany and Rotana in Saudi who provided the financing. But the journey was difficult.

spacecowboy00719 karma

When you travel, what is your favorite part of the world to visit and why?

HaifaaAlMansour59 karma

I love America. It's a country full of diversity and respect and stuff like that. There is respect for being different, and people are friendly and accepting.

HaifaaAlMansour51 karma

My favorite part of America is probably Los Angeles, California. It is sunny and not as hot as back home.

MLeibovitz18 karma


HaifaaAlMansour75 karma

Well I don't wear one personally. But I respect people who do. I have a problem with niqab, where you cover the face, because I think that the Face is a woman's face and identity and dignity, and it should not be covered, women should be proud of who they are. Also, in Islam there are a lot of schools that do not require it. It is only very strict interpretations that require women to do that. But I hope women in my country know that.

MLeibovitz10 karma


HaifaaAlMansour15 karma

I think so..?

MLeibovitz16 karma


HaifaaAlMansour20 karma

Aw thank you so much!

Yserbius14 karma

Do you have hope for more progressive rights in the future of Saudi Arabia?

HaifaaAlMansour51 karma

Oh yes. Saudi Arabia is opening up. 65% or 70% of the population is below the age of 25. And those people have access to the world and certainly they want a more modern life, I think. And in April of this year, a law was passed so that women can bike in certain areas! Small changes like that will change the mindset, so it's good. Women will also start voting, also, next year. And 30 women have been appointed to the Shura council (which is like the Parliament in Saudi) earlier this year. So there are changes. But we of course want more.

dragonfly199313 karma

Where did you study filmmaking?

HaifaaAlMansour26 karma

I did my masters in film in Sydney at the University of Sydney. But I learned mostly by making films. Making this film was really a scary process. I was making decisions all the time and sometimes it is such a stressful situation that I did not know what to do, or if I was making the right decision, but I felt it was very important to find what I wanted to say and it would guide me through the entire process. But it was chaotic.

tubbadog11 karma

Is what you have done dangerous? Do you expect backlash from people or groups who believe women should not be in your position?

HaifaaAlMansour25 karma

For sure there are people in Saudi who don't believe that women should be able to make films or things like that. They want women to exist in privacy. But Saudi Arabia is changing and there is room for things. We need to believe in ourselves and not be afraid or scared of doing things we love.

And I know that I come from a conservative culture. So I was not trying to offend anybody, while still making a film that contains my voice and that empowers women.

jace5311 karma

Will this film be widely shown in Saudi Arabia?

HaifaaAlMansour21 karma

On DVD and TV. We don't have commercial theatres. But we try to organize cultural screenings and sell tickets and all that, just to bring in a sense of what a film is like in Saudi. But still, theatres are not allowed in the Kingdom.

jace5312 karma

To bad. Seeing the film together, as a community of men and women, would have been a good thing. I hope that your effort is well received.

HaifaaAlMansour17 karma

Maybe one day?

riotscience10 karma

Hi Haifaa, I hope you're having a great day! I saw an advanced screening of WADJDA and loved it. The casting is wonderful and the pacing is captivating. While the setting was quite specific, my friend and I found the story to be quite universal, especially the scene on the roof with the fireworks. But then again we're both feminists. What do you think the most common misconception might be about this film or the story it tells?

HaifaaAlMansour14 karma

I wasn't worried about people having misconceptions making the film. I didn't make a film about a bad situation, or how women are victims in Saudi, and maybe a lot of people felt that was the type of thing they were going to see. It is about people who are victorious, and who are capable of changing their lives so they can achieve their dreams. So that is, for me - those are the types of films that are coming from the Middle East when it comes to women, showing women as victims, as helpless, and this is something I wanted to avoid. A lot of people come to the film with ideas that that is what it will be like.

I'm so glad that you loved the film. It makes me feel so good.

hungry_squirrel8 karma

Do you feel the pressure of responsibility on your shoulders to show the west what is happening in your home country?

Also your film was brilliant, best of luck with your films in the future.

HaifaaAlMansour29 karma

No, I am not trying to show the West what is happening in my country, that is not my aim in making films. I want to bridge cultures and be more of a global citizen and tell a story the way everybody tells a story. I think it makes the world a better place when we listen to each other. I don't make films to educate the people about all of Saudi Arabia, I just want to contribute to a dialogue. Just the same way that when an American director tries to make a film, they are trying to tell a story about themselves and how they see the world, not trying to convey all of America. My primary concern is telling an interesting story.

Thank you so much for the kind word!

Yxz7 karma

What do you hope to achieve with your films?

HaifaaAlMansour17 karma

Inspire people back home to make people happier and allow them to enjoy film. For this film in particular, I want young girls to embrace their potential and never give up. I know it's hard to be a woman in Saudi Arabia but there is room for a change if we really believe in ourselves and work hard to change our surroundings. And that does not mean by being aggressive as much as being assertive and knowing where you want to go.

Sweg_Lord9 karma


HaifaaAlMansour20 karma

That is AMAZING!!!! Let's get in touch. Tweet me https://twitter.com/HaifaaMansour if you want. Stick with it. Don't let people tell you there are no movies in Saudi Arabia!

bencordoza4 karma

What were some of the biggest problems you encountered making the film.

HaifaaAlMansour20 karma

The lack of infrastructure for film in Saudi. There is no industry and no people trained in making films. So we had to improvise a lot. For casting, for example, we relied a lot on word of mouth and who knew who. People are not used to auditioning, for example.

But it was a co-production between Saudi and Germany, so we had some crew coming in from Germany, which made things a little easier. The director of photography was from Germany and we would pair German crew with Saudi crew so they could exchange expertise on life and culture and skill.