‘Women without Shadows’ tonight at BCC

11 Jan, '07

Haifaa Al-Mansour's Women without Shadows documentaryHaifaa Al-Mansour will be showing her much acclaimed film Women without Shadows tonight at 6PM at the Bahrain Cinema Club.

The film and its director both received various local and international accolades, some of which are:

    1. The Golden Dagger in Muscat Film Festival for best documentary- 2006
    2. The Critics Golden Dagger for best film- Muscat film festival- 2006
    3. The Best Documentary in the Gulf region: Emirtes Film Festival 2006
    4. Special Mention: Beirut International Film Festivals for Docs- Docdays-2006
    5. Special Mention: Rotterdam Festiaval for Arab Films- 2006

The Saudi Arab News said about Women without Shadows:

Many who disagree with the Al-Mansour believe that the film doesn’t reflect reality; others are angered by Al-Mansour’s lack of knowledge about Islam. Norah, an Islamic culture teacher, asked, “What gives her the right to pass judgment on such matters? She isn’t an Islamic scholar; she’s a film director!”

Suleiman, a Saudi man, agrees with Norah. “I would advise the director to leave such sensitive issues to qualified individuals in order to prevent our children becoming infected with doubt about our religion.” He accused Al-Mansour of projecting her own perceptions of Islam on the public at large and is concerned about how damaging this might be.

Al-Mansour answered some of her critics by saying, “I didn’t try to force my personal opinion on the public or influence the public in any way. I simply wanted to convey the experiences and opinions of many women here in the Kingdom.”

Al-Qarni Retracts Statement on Hijab
Sheikh Ayed Al-Qarni has retracted an earlier statement in which he said the hijab was the covering of hair, not face. He once again fell in line with the rest of the scholars in the Kingdom with regard to the need for women to cover their face in public.

The International Herald Tribune also wrote about Haifaa and her movie; here’s a snippet of that article:

The movie, which looks something like an Egyptian musical, but with a Saudian context, was shot in Dubai and stars the flashily handsome Saudi Hicham Abderrahman, winner of the local “Star Academy” TV show. It touches on conflicts between Western liberal and Saudi conservative values. “It’s like a big studio film,” said Mansour, “and a hit throughout the Arab world.”

Her own first film is a more modest proposal. “These days, you can make a documentary that has impact,” she said. “Documentaries have become big.” She started out interviewing women street vendors: “They are free and aggressive because they have some economic independence, so they can express more.

“So many women are afraid to express anything,” she added. “It’s not just a question of religion, but of men taking advantage of the system: within the old tribal system, women didn’t have a chance. But today, things are opening up. I’m lucky: I got help from his royal highness, who is supportive of women,” she said, referring to Prince Talal.

Mansour interviewed women who speak their mind, and women who hide, invisible beneath their garb, fingers tugging nervously at their dark gowns. “I have nothing against marrying a married man,” says one young girl. “I don’t mind being a second wife.”

Mansour said, “Many don’t even realize they are unhappy. They are afraid of showing their feelings, of showing anything. With this movie, we wanted to change the reality for Saudi women because this is a critical and important moment. The times are changing and now there is an opportunity for all women to be more active. If they lose this chance, it would be sad.”

As for the sheik who said there was no Islamic rule ordaining women to veil their faces, he had to recant. “His interview made the Muslims nervous and angry, so they pressured him. It wasn’t so bad for me because of course they hate me but I’m not one of them; he is one of them. He even had to say that I had manipulated him. I didn’t. But he’s a good man and I still like him.”

After reading this, are you sure you would want to miss this documentary? This is an excellent change to try to understand some of the dynamics of Saudi, especially that it exposes such a thorny subject. It is a glimpse into some of the most secret depths of Saudi society and psyche.

I’ll be there at 6. I hope many of you will join me too.

If you are a blogger, please mention this in your blog too so that we spread the word. This is very short notice I know, but together we can ensure that many people attend this rather important showing.

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Comments (18)

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  1. Ahmed says:

    Muslims are sooooooo afraid of their women it isn’t even funny. Generally what’s causing this is called “penis envy”.


  2. Mahmood

    Is there anyway I can get a copy of this film?

  3. mahmood says:

    Mark, I’m happy to tell you that Haifaa actually gave me a DVD as a gift! That lady is sweet! I’ll ask her if I can make a copy for you. She doesn’t sell the movie at the moment.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Mahmoud, there is a possibility of a documentary film festival here in Austin so would it be possible for you to get me her contact info?

  5. mahmood says:

    Of course Ingrid, if you would email me I’ll patch you two together to get it done.

  6. Ethan says:

    What a brave woman.

    Braver than the Sheik, in fact. While he climbed down from his opinion under pressure, she stands proudly against the green tide of oppression.

    Maybe that’s why these conservative Muslims keep their women in formless black prisons; it would show how weak and cowardly their men really are.

  7. Ahmed says:

    The movie is available on google video :


    In case someone missed it.

  8. Ali says:

    Haifaa is going in the right direction. I interviewed her couple of years ago and I believe her down-to-earth approach and honesty will make a great fimmaker out of her.

    Mahmood, does the film start at 6, or should we arrive at 6?!?

  9. Ingrid says:

    Thanks Mahmoud! After my mundane house chores I’ll do so..

  10. alfanan says:


    The link you gave is for another documentary. It’s about the mentally disabled in Iran, and I don’t think that this is the one Mahmood is talking about here or the one shown at the BCC.

    If you can find a link to the right one, please do let us know.

    Also, Mahmood, I’d love to get a copy of the DVD as well.

  11. mahmood says:

    I’ll ask, alfanan, and let you know. Maybe I should encourage her to submit the documentary to Google Video…

  12. Esra'a says:

    Submitting the link to Google Video will be very useful and will give her more recognition, I hope she agrees to do this. Gives us the chance to share and discuss this video with other bloggers and sites as well.

  13. mahmood says:

    I emailed Haifaa asking permission. I’ll let you know the response when I get it.

  14. hayoot99 says:

    Hey gals /guys,,,I become to know about Haifa’s documentary from Dubai One Statelite Channel /Emirates News.I apppreciate if you all tell me where I can watch her full documentary,,
    She is one in a million!
    We all have to support such ironic woman….

  15. carlos santesteban says:

    How can I get a copy of the movie? Or get in touch with this brave woman? I am a westerner that converted to Islam and married a middle east progressive profesional smart woman. I am working in Saudi now and I suffer seem this people way of living. Way is she not selling his movie. She could go to amazon.com or ebay and spread her movie that way, making money for what I am sure she has in mind: a future project.

    Carlos Santesteban

  16. Tasneem says:

    I’ve actually trying to get hold of Haifa for a piece I’m doing for Arabian Woman Magazine – do you have any idea how I can?

  17. Ann Merkle says:

    Mahmood –
    I’m trying very hard to get in touch with this amazing woman, Haifaa al-Mansour, in order to try to acquire a copy of her film to show at a film festival at the the university I work at in Kentucky. Could you pass my information on to her?


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