Creating Magic On Paper: Arab Women Who Are Killing It As Screenwriters

Screenwriting is a job that requires one to be highly creative in order to capture the essence of the project, whether it’s a film or a tv show. It is the scriptwriter who creates magic on paper before it goes into the hands of the director. The Middle East is then home to talented Arab scriptwriters who managed to peak with their unique ideas to win international awards. To know more about them, we have curated a list to showcase the amount of talent within the region.

Mariam Naoum

Mariam Naoum is an Egyptian screenwriter who is regarded as one of the greatest in the region. With a particular focus on women’s issues, her work confronts the difficulties faced by individuals who are excluded both socially and economically. Naoum is specifically passionate about dramatic screenwriting because she considers it a mirror to society with the ability to express a powerful mix of emotions. She contributed to a number of films, including A Girl Named Zat, which starred Nelly Karim, and One-Zero, which starred a number of celebrities, including Elham Shahin and Nelly Karim.

Nadine Khan

Nadine Khan is a filmmaker whose production is evidence of her talent and originality. She is a prominent filmmaker, whose debut feature film Chaos, Disorder / Harag w’ Marag won the Jury Prize at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2012, and the Best Film award at the Oran Film Festival, Algeria 2013. Filmmaking though is not her only profession as khan turned out to be a superb screenwriter. Her work on Abu Saddam, which premiered at the 43rd Cairo International Film Festival, saw Mohamed Mamdouh winning best actor and thus proving that her role as a screenwriter enables actors to reach their potential through her creative storytelling.

Hala Khalil

Hala Khalil, an Egyptian who graduated from the Cairo Film School with a degree in film directing in 1992, began her career by writing and directing short films and documentaries. Best of Times (2004) and Cut and Paste (2006), two full-length features she wrote and directed, were screened at numerous international film festivals and won numerous prizes and top honors both domestically and abroad. Her writing style is characterized by satire and prominent female protagonists.

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Ghada Abdel Aal

Ghana Abdel Al is a rising screenwriter who has outperformed herself with Finding Ola, which is a comedic series that featured the talented Hend Sabry and magnificent actor Hany Adel. That’s not it for her as she wrote Embratoreyet Meen which features the incredible Mohamed Mamdouh and Egypt’s beloved actor Ezzat Abou Aouf.

Nadine Labaki

A remarkable Lebanese actor, director, and writer, Nadine Labaki directed “Capernaum,” which won her an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. It’s not only directing that she excels at as she wrote 3 other movies: Where do we go now? Rio I love You, and Caramel. Through her work in the film industry, Labaki demonstrates her commitment to ending all of the injustices and inequalities that women suffer on a daily basis by sparking conversations about societal issues through her writings.

Leyla Bouzid

Born in Tunis, Tunisia Leyla Bouzid is known for As I Open My Eyes, which was her first feature film. It was selected for many international festivals where it won more than 40 awards, before becoming a real success after its release in France and Tunisia. Her second feature film, A tale of love and desire, was released in France then she worked on Zakaria. She is also the daughter of the Tunisian filmmaker Nouri Bouzid.

Maryam Touzani

Born in Tangier in 1980, Maryam Touzani spent her childhood in her hometown before pursuing university studies in journalism in London. She is passionate about writing, and she returned to Morocco after her studies and worked there as a journalist, specializing in cinema. In 2008, she wrote and directed a documentary for the first National Women’s Day in Morocco, an important date for the country. Then When they slept, her first short fiction film was screened and awarded at prestigious festivals around the world, winning a total of seventeen awards according to IMDb.

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Sabrina Mahfouz

Sabrina Mahfouz is a British-Egyptian writer, performer, and educator, who was raised in London and Cairo. She began her career with her first short play, That Boy, which was performed at the Soho Theatre in 2010 and won a Westminster Prize for New Playwrights. Then in 2015, her play With A Little Bit of Luck was also adapted as a radio drama for BBC Radio. Most recently, her adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses for Pilot Theatre went on tour around the UK according to British Council.

Nayla Al Khaja

Nayla Al Khaja is considered to be the first female film director in the United Arab Emirates. Several media sites reported in 2021 that an anthology based on a series Nayla came up with will be released titled The Alexandria Killings. Terry George, an Oscar winner, will oversee the project. In addition to serving as the Executive Producer, Nayla will soon begin directing some episodes.

Haifaa Al-Mansour

Haifaa Al Mansour is the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia and is regarded as one of the most significant cinematic figures in the Kingdom. She finished her bachelor’s degree in Literature at the American University in Cairo and completed a Master’s degree in Directing and Film Studies from the University of Sydney. She wrote projects such as The Perfect Candidate, The Wedding Singer’s Daughter, Mary Shelley,  Wadjda, and The Bitter Departure. Additionally, within the Kingdom, her work is praised for encouraging discussion on cultural and societal topics.

Having the passion and the ability to create drama are what enable a scriptwriter to give birth to a film or a series. As they spark conversations, these Arab female scriptwriters are the ones who empower directors and actors to give the audience an experience they have never seen before.

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