Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour’s female empowerment feature “Miss Camel” is among four projects selected to vie for the IWC Filmmaker Award worth $100,000 during the upcoming Dubai International Film Festival.
A jury headed by Cate Blanchett will select the winner.
Al Mansour made waves in 2013 with “Wadjda,” about a 10-year-old Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle even though it is forbidden for her in her country.
She more recently directed English-language biopic “Mary Shelley” starring Elle Fanning which world premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and was recently picked up for U.S. distribution by IFC Films.
The long-gestating “Miss Camel” project is about a Saudi teen named Hayla “who will do anything to escape her arranged marriage and fulfil her goal of attending art school outside of Saudi Arabia,” according to its synopsis.
“While scheming to make her way to the in-person interviews for the art college in a neighbouring Gulf state, Hayla makes a startling discovery at her cousin’s wedding – she can talk to animals.” Thus begins the teen’s rapport with a beautiful camel named Melwah with which she travels across the kingdom to compete in the Miss Camel beauty pageant in Doha, challenging the deep-rooted restrictions of her culture.
The other projects shortlisted for the sixth IWC Filmmmaker Award are:
— Emirati writer/director and producer Nayla Al Khaja’s feature film debut “Animal” set in an upper middle class Dubai household “ruled by an unstable and cruel patriarch,” according to its synopsis. The film follows the lives of four family members and two domestic helpers and “the audience quickly grasps the tempestuous mood swings the other members of the home are forced to endure, and the extreme anxiety this can create.” “To escape their harsh reality, the two siblings shape a parallel world fuelled by creativity, pranks and imagination.”
— Bahraini director Rashed Buali’s sophomore feature “Kombars,” a comedy about a widower in his 40s who, shortly after inheriting a woman’s lingerie shop, finds out that he has one month to find a new wife or he will lose his spot on the list of government housing beneficiaries.
—Omani filmmaker Muzna Almusafer’s feature film debut “The Crown of Olives,” a relationship drama “inspired by the sleepy city of Muscat.”
The award will be presented to the winning filmmaker during a gala event on December 7 at the One&Only Royal Mirage hotel in Dubai.
DIFF’s Artistic Director Masoud Amralla Al Ali noted in a statement that the IWC Filmmaker Award allows “both promising and established filmmakers” from the region to “take their vision from script to screen.”
The 14th edition of DIFF will run December 6-13.