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The director Haifaa Al Mansour, left, with Waad Mohammed, who played the title role in “Wadjda,” filming in the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2011.CreditCourtesy Haifaa Al Mansour

I learned to love movies in a country where cinemas were illegal. My only access to film as a Saudi girl came through our crummy local video shop in suburban Riyadh where I grew up, where women were forbidden to enter. When I was old enough to go on my own, I would wait just outside the door for a male worker to bring me a catalog to flip through, selecting titles that would transport me to places that seemed millions of miles away.

Thanks to Jackie Chan, Bollywood and Disney I discovered a world beyond our borders. Those videos were the foundation for my crazy dream of someday making my own movies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saudi women attend a short film festival in Riyadh in 2017. Photo: Getty Images.

Saudi Arabia is about to open its first cinema for 35 years, showing the film Black Panther. And Saudi Arabia's decision to end its ban on cinemas is part of a wider change across society.

In the 20th century, its ruling Al Saud dynasty could rely on two sources of power: plentiful oil wealth and an informal pact with conservative religious clerics. But now the country has to adapt to a 21st century where oil wealth will not be enough to fund government spending and create jobs, and where the clerics have less influence than they once did with the new leaders of the royal family.…  Seguir leyendo »