Saudi Arabia’s first female director has been awarded a grant from the Doha Film Institute (DFI) to produce a new animation feature that challenges restrictions against women in the Gulf.
Haifaa Al Mansour’s new film tells the story of a teenage camel who travels to Doha to compete in the Miss Camel beauty pageant, challenging the “deep-rooted restrictions of her culture,” DFI said in a statement.
“Miss Camel” is among 30 projects from 19 countries that have been awarded grants this year by DFI.
Twenty-four of these projects are from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, while six are from the rest of the world, including for the first time filmmakers from Chile, Peru and Spain. The exact funding amounts of the projects have not been released.
Al Mansour is known for her award winning film Wajda, about a ten-year-old girl living in the Saudi capital of Riyadh who wants to pursue a simple dream of having a bicycle.
But because she lives in a conservative society that believes riding bicycles is not appropriate for women and could threaten their virtue, the task is difficult to achieve.
Speaking about Al Mansour’s latest projects, DFI CEO Fatma Al Remaihi said in a statement:
“Animated films are very popular in our region so it is very encouraging to see an acclaimed filmmaker like Haifaa Al Mansour turn her skills to this important genre; we support two other animated projects in this grants cycle as well.”
One of the other animated projects is also set in Qatar, and titled “Search for the Star Pearl.”
The film, which is being produced by Hafiz Ali Abdullah, is about a 17-year old pearl diver from Doha who discovers a map to the most valuable gem in the world, and sets sail with three friends to find it.
Three other movies by Qatar-based filmmakers that have been awarded DFI grants this year include:
- To the Ends of the Earth by Hamida Al Kawari. This feature documentary follows a Qatari woman on an environmental expedition to Antarctica in search of the truth behind climate change;
- Kashta by A.J. Al Thani. This family drama is about a father who takes his sons out into the desert to teach them about hunting and survival; and
- The Waiting Room by Hend Fakhroo. This film is about an Arab and a Western family who find themselves sharing a hospital room.
2015 grants program
This is the 11th time DFI has awarded grants to supporting new cinematic talent, with a focus on first- and second-time filmmakers. The institute also provides post-production funding to established filmmakers from the MENA region.
“Our Fall grantees cover a broad range of subjects and represent some powerful new voices in cinema, especially from Qatar and North Africa with several projects supported from Morocco and Algeria,” Al Remaihi said.
Submissions for the next funding round opens on Jan. 6, 2016 and closes Jan 19.
Funding is available to filmmakers from around the world, especially those from the MENA region. More information about eligibility and submissions can be found here.