The latest original film to land on Netflix is the Saudi-directed romantic comedy Nappily Ever After.
Helmed by Haifaa Al Mansour, it stars Sanaa Lathan in the lead.
Here are five things to know, from which A-lister was slated for the lead role before Lathan, and how Al Mansour got involved with her second English-language production.
1. Nappily Ever After is based on the 2009 book of the same name, which has plenty of sequels. The first book released nearly a decade ago, and it kicked off a lengthy series by author Trisha R. Thomas.
To date, Thomas has released nine books in her Nappily universe, culminating in Postcards From Venus, which she released in 2016.
It’s unclear whether Netflix might follow suit and turn their adaptation into a franchise, though the movie does end on an open-ended note. Interestingly, the protagonist in the book is named Venus, but in the film, she is Violet.
2. It’s directed by Saudi’s first female filmmaker, Al Mansour. This marks her second foray into Hollywood. Al Mansour said she had ‘an incredibly positive experience’ with Netflix. “They are very supportive, filmmaker focused, and seem genuinely interested in promoting diversity,” she told Gulf News tabloid!, in an interview last year. Her first English language feature was 2017’s period drama Mary Shelley, starring Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams and Douglas Booth. Al Mansour’s 2012 film Wadjda became the first film to be submitted by Saudi Arabia to the Academy Awards for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
3. Nappily Ever After is about a woman’s growth and self-love through various stages of her hair. Advertising executive Violet goes from a bad break-up to a relationship with a single father — and hair salon owner — while she journeys towards accepting her natural hair as a black American woman. According to director Al Mansour, the film is about “breaking away from the images that society place on women, with their hair or skin colour or body type, and learning to embrace our true selves. It is also funny, and a strong social commentary.”
4. Lathan actually shaved her hair for the film. When Lathan’s character Violet shaves off all her hair in an emotionally charged scene, Lathan is shaving her own hair for the camera. “It was really emotional,” she told Bustle. “I just kind of let everything happen and was just kind of blown away by how many emotions I went through… It was kind of life changing.”
5. Halle Berry was initially meant to star in the film. Before Netflix came along, the film was in development by Universal Pictures in 2003. Colombian director Patricia Cardoso was at the helm, and Berry was set to star as the protagonist Violet. However, in 2017, Netflix took the film on and Al Mansour directed a re-written script with Lathan in the lead. Al Mansour said it was ‘such a joy’ to direct Lathan, and called the seasoned actress ‘just exceptional’.
Don’t miss it
Nappily Ever After is now streaming on Netflix.