Netflix has boarded Saudi Arabian multi-hyphenate Fatima Al-Banawi’s feature film debut “Basma” which tackles the theme of mental illness in her country.
The groundbreaking film is set in Jeddah, the city on the Red Sea’s eastern shore where Saudi’s Red Sea Film Festival is currently underway.
Besides writing and directing “Basma,” Al Banawi – who has a psychology degree and also a masters in theological studies from Harvard – also stars as 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.
Al-Banawi’s first acting role was in Mahmoud Sabbagh’s groundbreaking 2016 comedy “Barakah Meets Barakah” that put her in the international spotlight after the film went to Berlin and was selected as Saudi’s international Oscar candidate.
“Basma,” which is supported by the Red Sea Film Festival Foundation, is 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 will drop globally on Netflix in 2024.
Netflix, for the second year in a row is at the Red Sea Film Festival with its Because She Created initiative dedicated to promoting talented young women in the Arab world who are telling envelope-pushing stories.
Besides Fatima AlBanaoui the Because She Created lineup at Red Sea includes Adwa Bader, the Saudi-American multihyphenate who stars in Netflix’s upcoming Saudi film “Naga,” a 1970s-set satirical thriller involving a young Saudi woman who has been taking drugs in the desert who must overcome various obstacles to reach her home before the curfew set by her punishment-prone father, and also Haya Abdelsalam who is the lead and creative producer behind Netflix’s Kuwaiti series “Devil’s Advocate” about a female lawyer who defies popular sentiment by defending a soccer player accused of murdering his wife.