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Norah

1h 35m Drama 2023

With the odds (and the law) stacked against them, a teenager and a teacher in creatively stunted Saudi Arabia find meaning and friendship through art.

Norah yearns for a life coloured by art. But in Saudi Arabia in 1996, she’s facing an arranged marriage and conservative rule that has banned books, cinemas and most forms of artistic expression. She makes do with smuggled magazines and cassettes until a new teacher, Nader, arrives in her remote village. When she learns of his talents with the brush, Norah is desperate to become the subject of his painting; in the young woman’s adamant (and dangerous) request, Nader rediscovers his passion for creativity and the power of art to communicate without words.

It’s a case of art imitating life for writer/director Tawfik Alzaidi, who grew up surrounded by the decades-long ban on cultural outlets. Norah forms a series of firsts: Alzaidi’s debut feature, the first role for 17-year-old newcomer Maria Bahrawi, the first entirely local production to shoot in the historic AlUla region and the only Saudi title to date to have screened at Cannes (where it earned a Special Mention in the Un Certain Regard section). Yet, following in the footsteps of predecessor Wadjda (MIFF 2013), this inspiring film also portrays the manifold ways that everyday people can find the means to realise art and creative expression against great odds.

“Striking … Norah proves to be an exceptionally strong debut from a filmmaking voice who reaches into his not-so-distant cultural past in order to reflect on his present (and his future) as a creator.” – Variety

Director

Tawfik Alzaidi

Language

Arabic

Country

Saudi Arabia

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