As a woman in Arab film, I often get asked how I feel women’s place in the industry has evolved over my 30-year career. My response is humble but optimistic: the journey hasn’t always been fair or equal, but we have been acting, producing, creating and celebrating one story at a time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do.
It is an exciting time to be in entertainment and I still have the same passion as I did when I made my acting debut at 14. It makes me happy that audiences are requesting more diversity and variety. The obligation is on us — as filmmakers, producers and talent — to tell stories that reflect people’s experiences and make more people feel seen on screen.
For me, that means continuing to drive representation for women in the Arab film industry, both in front of and behind the camera. I am proud to have shared my experience at the second edition of Netflix’s Because She Created session at the 43rd Cairo International Film Festival. It’s an important platform that amplifies Arab women filmmakers and brings us together to celebrate each other and continue to work towards better representation.
As an actress, I am excited for more strong female leads on the screen, and I would like to see even more scripts written for strong female characters. In order to change the narrative, women need more autonomy over their stories, with more empowered women in key decision-making positions to change the perspective on the project selections, funds, and representation.
I’m very proud to be the first Arab artist to sign with Netflix as an executive producer and star in a series. Finding Ola is close to my heart because it’s a story of true, unapologetic rediscovery. In this series we see beloved character, Ola Abd ElSabour, go through a life-altering event which drives her to embark on a journey of self-discovery and deal with the challenges of a new reality. This is a story that breaks women out of the character molds they’re normally boxed into and I can’t wait for audiences to watch Ola smash the patriarchy.
I’ve wanted to be an executive producer for some time and I am grateful for the trust that Netflix has placed in me. I have learned this job on-the-go and that kind of trust is what we need to rally around. This is an example of how big players in the industry can help support women’s representation, by developing collaborative relationships to help create more opportunities for women to amplify their work.
We have a unique perspective and are championed by many brave male and female filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of public debate, introducing new perspectives and making audiences comfortable with a new and more authentic form of storytelling.
In the coming years, I hope to see more stories of real Arab women, because the more authentic and local the story is, the more universal it can become. I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next!
By Hend Sabry, Actress, Executive Producer