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Haifaa Al-Mansour Rocks Out to Punk and Cooks With TikTok

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2. “The Nightingale’s Prayer (Dua Al-Karawan)”

I like to show people this film to show how amazing the Golden Age of Arabic cinema was. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking film and so advanced for its time. It is set in Egypt, in a small town there. A very handsome engineer, he lives in a big house. There are two girls. One of them falls in love with him. When her uncle finds out, he kills her. The other sister witnesses that. She wants revenge. It is about honor killing, but told as a love story. It makes people fall in love with those girls who are breaking the rules, and makes them understand what it means to be a young woman.

3. Miss Camel beauty pageants

There is nothing more authentically a Gulf experience than a camel beauty pageant, a competition to find the perfect camel. It has to be pure-bred; it has to have a very long neck, full lips. The prizes are so crazy these days that we have participants disqualified for Botox and wax injections. It’s insane! But it is such an authentic, lovely celebration of something that has been a part of our culture for eons. I’m working on an animated movie about the Miss Camel pageants. It’s about a camel, a sassy, Saudi camel who thinks she’s cut out for bigger things than just being a milk camel in the streets.

4. “Arrested Development”

I love this show. I’ve been catching up on it during the pandemic. I really love Alia Shawkat. Her timing is just wonderful, and she is a fearless actress. And nobody’s treating her as an Arab woman. Like, veiled and very obedient. She is just a quirky teenager. And it was very inspiring to see that. And I love that kind of humor. It’s very direct and unapologetic. I wish I could write humor like that. I’m trying.

5. “The Evil Dead”

This movie still absolutely terrifies me. My dad got us this when I was way too young to see it. I remember the blood dripping. And the evil laugh of the people who became monsters. It was so scary! I watched it just a few weeks ago, and it’s still creeping me out. I’m working on a horror film at the moment. It is about the experience of alienation Muslims sometimes have. Even though people are very polite, you can feel that maybe they won’t accept you. I wanted to capture that moment and what it means, because it’s very horrifying.

6. “Forensic Files”

Each episode follows a crime and how the police solve it. I’ve indulged in it during the pandemic, because it’s on all the time! I love the way the [episodes] build up the drama and mystery. It’s an amazing, fascinating study of human nature and what can make a “normal” person do something terrible. Usually infidelity and finances. It goes into places that I never go to. Small towns around America. They even go into people’s houses. And parking lots and like gas stations, a lot of things happen there.

7. Cartoons by Shawn Kerri

Shawn is such a legendary figure. She was one of the most famous poster artists of the early punk rock movement and creator of the infamous logo for the Circle Jerks. She was in one of the first all-girl rock bands in California, the Cockpits. She wrote stories for Disney, “Cracked” and “Hustler” simultaneously. Her work is incredible — fun, exciting and so well-executed. My husband and I are developing a documentary about her. We’re hoping to make people more aware of her art. Women like that, they’re always on the verge of success, and they disappear. And that is sad. I want to understand why.

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