As the first Saudi Arabian woman to direct a feature film, Haifaa al-Mansour is either a pioneer or a pariah, depending on your point of view or what side of the street you live on. In some areas of her native Riyadh, she felt able to shoot unimpeded. In others she was forced to hide in a production van, directing her male crew members via walkie-talkie for fear of sparking protests.
"Saudi Arabia is a very traditional, conservative and tribal society," she explained as her finished film, Wadjda, debuted to warm applause at the Venice film festival. "Men and women cannot be on the streets together, particularly if the woman is seen to be directing the men. People would come and tell us to stop filming. It was a challenging experience,