Saudi Arabian filmmaker, actress and activist Fatima Al-Banawi (“Barakah Meets Barakah”) is set to make her feature film directorial debut with “Basma,” a bold drama that will tackle the theme of mental illness in her country.
The pic, which she also wrote, is set to start shooting in Jeddah in October.
Besides writing and directing “Basma,” Al Banawi will be its titular star, playing the 26-year-old daughter of a man who suffers from paranoid delusions. Upon returning from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia, Basma tries to save him from his spiraling mental instability before being forced to leave her father again.
“I like to work with family dynamics; human relations are something that really attracts me,” said Al-Banawi, who has a psychology degree and also a masters in theological studies from Harvard.
“My entire family are either theologists or psychologists. So there is a deep observation that comes out of that experience,” she added, noting that she deliberately set out to depict mental illness within the context of a home and family “instead of the usual setups of hospitals and mental institutions.”
Al-Banawi’s first acting role in Mahmoud Sabbagh’s groundbreaking 2016 comedy “Barakah Meets Barakah” put her in the international spotlight after the film went to Berlin and was selected as Saudi’s international Oscar candidate.
In that pic, she played Bibi, a rebellious beauty and Instagram star from a wealthy family who becomes the love interest of a Jeddah municipal law enforcement officer from a more humble background.
Al-Banawi more recently starred in her self-directed short “A Blink of an Eye” and landed a role in Netflix’s first Arabic Original show “Paranormal.”
“Basma,” which is supported by Jeddah’s Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, is being produced by prominent Egyptian producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy (“Amira”) and Fatima Al-Banawi, respectively, through their Alf Wad and Film Clinic shingles.
The film’s associate producer is Paris-based Daniel Ziskind (“Amira”).