I have just seen a film which I highly recommend if you are working in the Middle East, interested in doing so, or working with international teams. It’s called International-english“WADJDA” by Haifaa Al-Mansour, the very first film by Saudi’s first female film-maker.

The stories about how it was made are almost as interesting as the film itself. It is directed by a young Saudi woman who evidently had to direct some of the male actors from inside a van so as not to court disapproval for being seen to mix with men in public.

While the focus of the film is on the role of women,  “I don’t believe in stirring up trouble for its own sake,” Al-Mansour says, as quoted in Picturehouse Recommends magazine. “I just think we should be working to figure out how to incorporate inevitable change and modernisation into our culture in a reasonable way.”

The film is a delightful story, as well as interesting on many levels. There are moments of great humour, and a storyline which captures the humanity of the central struggle alongside cultural insights.

The heroine is wonderfully determined and inventive – and impressive to carry so much of the film’s story at such a young age. In the film she plays a feisty and attractively courageous 10-year-old, while the headmistress and the mother are head-turningly beautiful.

Now I want to discuss the film with my friends who know Saudi Arabia and with our associates who work in Moslem countries. Their view of the film is going to help me understand how “accurate” it is – no doubt their interpretations will be different to mine as a British businesswoman, albeit one who has experienced working in the Middle East.

For me personally, the film was also a reminder of the two years we spent, my British husband  and I, working in Cairo. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, the fun we had with our British and Egyptian friends, and learning some Arabic. I was delighted to find that my own small knowledge of Egyptian Arabic from that time helped me understand some words in the film. Now that’s quite an achievement after 30 years.


Leave a Reply