In 2010 Saudi poetess Hissa Hilal made headlines around the world as the first woman to ever make it to the finals of "Million's Poet", an Abu-Dhabi based Million Dollar reality television show. It is the Arab world's biggest poetry competition, and it is dominated by men. In her poems Hissa criticizes the patriarchal Arab society and she attacks one of the most notorious Saudi clerics for his extremist fatwas, live, in front of 75 million viewers. Hissa Hilal is the voice from behind the veil: Her word is her weapon. We'll never see Hissa's face. Like the majority of Saudi women, Hissa is covered from head to toe. She is not allowed to drive a car. She doesn't own a passport. And she requires consent from her husband for any sort of activity. But then, coming out of nowhere, Hissa is suddenly breaking news in the biggest Western and Arab media. How did she gain the knowledge and the courage to step on stage and risk her life?
While other women have occasionally entered this Arab-world-wide Poetry writing and reading contest, she is the 1st to reach the finals, and she did it with fiery denunciations of anti-women culture and religious extremism.
In between scenes of her audition and on-stage performance, she shows us her teaching her daughter how to behave "properly" in Saudi Arabia so she would not attract attention. She also gives her view of how women's rights have eroded over the years. As Bedouins in the desert, practicality was paramount. As men moved to easier life in the cities, the restrictions on women grew. Eventually, though, it was the Saudi royal family that accepted religious extremism in return for continued political and economic power.
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