With a cinema ban that saw an end a mere year ago, Saudi Arabia’s film industry is only now beginning to cultivate. With films like Dunya’s Day coming out of the woodworks, it’s safe to say the industry is off to a promising start.
Directed by Saudi filmmaker Raed Alsemari, the film is due to be screened at Sundance Film Festival at the end of the month. But before it opens for an international audience, the all-Saudi film marked a few historic firsts.
Organized by the General Cultural Authority in Riyadh, Dunya’s Day became the first Saudi film to be screened in the Kingdom. The satirical short also broke the mould being the first to feature an all-Saudi, all female cast. Once it competes in International Shorts section, it will be the first Saudi to screen at the Sundance Film Festival.
In telling the story of an ostentatious, wealthy Saudi young woman desperate to plan the ultimate graduation party, the satire presents a known, but rarely-portrayed look at the Kingdom’s societal mores and structure.
Alsemari’s impressively created a truly Saudi Arabian archetype parallel to Hollywood’s ‘mean girl’ in its focus on social standing and the compulsive need for validation, but particular to the region in its incorporation of a side of the coin rarely acknowledged: a rich Arab woman’s tumultuous relationship with her staff—marking a huge step towards the abandonment of the typical, oppressive narratives Arab women are boxed into.