A screengrab from the trailer of 'Scales' Image Credit: YouTube

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, ADIBF, has hosted Saudi filmmaker Shahad Ameen in its latest Virtual Session, during which the celebrated filmmaker talked about her cinematic works and her inspirations that follow the 'magical realism' style.

This session is part of the ADIBF Virtual Session Series, which was launched by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, where guests have presented their talks remotely, allowing viewers to watch from the safety of their own homes.


Ameen kicked off the session by examining her latest film 'Scales' (Sayidat Al Bahr), which won the Verona Award for 'Most Innovative Film' at the 2019 Venice Film Festival.

'Scales' is Ameen's first full-length narrative film, highlighting the shift in women's role in society by chronicling the journey of Hayat, a young girl who goes against her village's traditions, where they sacrificed female children to a community of mermaids. The film depicts Hayat's internal conflict into whether she belongs on land or at sea, while also portraying the inevitable onset of bodily changes.

The session explored the mythological elements in the film, which are largely inspired by the ancient Arab heritage. Ameen noted that her use of Arab mythology is meant to engage the audience and motivate them to reflect on these symbols and the underlying issues, instead of presenting these issues through coordinated answers and unilateral statements. The accomplished filmmaker chose to produce the film in black and white to represent the adversities of living in such a community.

Ameen also expressed her great hopes for the future of Arab cinema, after having seen so many distinctive Arabic screenplays that depict the reality of the Arab world with its rich culture and mythology, and diverse traditions. She further explained that the most vital element in producing a well-woven screenplay is the author's confidence in their idea and its originality rather than attempts to recapture or imitate other cinematic works.

Previous ADIBF Virtual Sessions have featured the Swedish behavioural expert Thomas Erikson; military survival specialist John Hudson; Lemn Sissay, the award-winning British-Ethiopian poet; and Annabel Karmel, the children's cookbook author.