Haifaa Al-Mansour discusses her feature film debut with The Fan Carpet's Paul Risker for the cinematic release of Wadjda | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Haifaa Al-Mansour discusses her feature film debut with The Fan Carpet’s Paul Risker for the cinematic release of Wadjda

15 July 2013

Following successful screenings at the Cannes, Venice and London film festivals last year, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s feature debut Wadjda earns its UK theatrical on Friday 19 July.

On occasions either the story of the making of a film or the story of the filmmaker themselves transcends the film itself. Wadjda is a significant moment within Middle Eastern filmmaking and within the global story or heritage of film.

The Fan Carpet was fortunate to have an opportunity to interview Haifaa ahead of Friday’s release, in a conversation that used the film as a means to compel a wide ranging discussion of the film, the writer-director behind the projected images and her two worlds.


Why a career in filmmaking?

Just because I wanted to have a voice of my own; I just wanted to have a hobby. I finished college in 1991 and I went back Saudi to work. In Saudi I felt so invisible. As a young person trying to assert myself in the work place, naturally you were invisible. Nothing is against me per say, but it is hard and it was a low point in my life. I wanted to do something that makes me happy and so I made a short and I submitted it to a small local competition in Abu Dahbi. They accepted it and I was so happy and they invited and sent me a ticket to go to the festival. So I went and they said “You are the first female filmmaker” and I said “I guess so” [Laughs].


Wadjda is a film of firsts. It is the first feature film shot entirely inside the Kingdom. You are the first Saudi female filmmaker and it is the first performance by the films lead actress Waad Mohammed.

It wasn’t planned to be that. I wasn’t really trying for it to be the first film ever shot in Saudi Arabia. I wasn’t trying to have this film be Waad Mohammed’s first performance. I wasn’t trying to do that, it just happened and I think that it maybe gave it this fresh feel. For me there was no history to rely on. There’s nothing like a film school in Saudi Arabia where you can study Saudi Arabian filmmaking, what it looks like; anything I can rely on for anything. So I had to use my life culture as a type of pattern on The Bicycle Thieves and all the Italian Neo-Realism and Iranian films like Jafar Panahi’s, where they have children to have more space. I also wanted to tell an aspiring story and because I didn’t have tradition to rely on while I was writing it, I didn’t know where it was taking me. I didn’t know anything; I was just trying to come up with a story. When you are an artist sometimes you experiment with things and you hope it will work.

Beneath the guise of simplicity, a story about childhood you expose a rich subtext of the relationship between men and women, society and its people and therein you offer a rich social commentary. Wadjda however is not a geographically centralised film, but offers a universal message. As you have said in previous interviews, “I hope the film offers a unique insight into my own country and speaks of universal themes of hope and perseverance that people of all cultures can relate to."

When I was making the film I didn’t want elaborate shots. For me I just wanted to bring life and Saudi life is just so rich. There is so much there and there are so many things that people can come up with. I want them to sense what it is to be a Saudi without me trying to be smart; in as much as conveying how it is to be there. I was worried, because when you make something like this that is very subtle, people might not see that, but I felt I should have faith in the audience and have faith that if I thought this scene was interesting for me that someone else would see it the same way. With that faith I tried to believe that people would see the subtlety and would understand and grasp it. That was my approach and I feel that it helped me deal with a very complex and conservative culture like Saudi where it is not easy to just say things, but it is easier just to do life and bring it up.





Wadjda Film Page | Wadjda Review

WADJDA is released in UK cinemas from 19th July