by Katie Van Syckle.
It’s eight p.m. in Bahrain, and the squeals of children resisting sleep can be heard upstairs at the Al-Mansour/Neimann house. Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour’s husband Bradley Neimann, an American diplomat, is attempting to goad Adam, 5, and Hailey, 3, into bed after a long day of cupcake-decorating and playdates.
“I used to get more [death] threats,” says their mother, talking to me over Skype downstairs. “Saudi was more conservative, now it’s changing. People aren’t as militant.”
But Saudi Arabia is still a country ruled by Sharia law. In public, women are segregated by gender, and must be accompanied by a male guardian. They are required to wear a full-body black cloak, or abaya, and are forbidden to drive cars. All of which is to say that 39-year-old Al-Mansour’s first feature film, Wadjda — shot quietly, and entirely, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — is no small triumph.
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