A Saudi film has been awarded the prestigious Jury Prize awards at the Sundance Film Festival 2019 at a ceremony in Park City, Utah.
The film, directed by Raed Alsemari, became the first Saudi film to be shown at the renowned Sundance Film Festival.
It tells the story of Dunya as she struggles to organize an important party after her household staff fails to show up to help.
The all-Saudi cast includes Sarah Balghonaim as Dunya, and Sarah Altaweel and Rahaf as Dalal and Deema, her best friends. Balghonaim joined the project to help with casting, but when Alsemari was unable to find an actor he liked for the title character, he asked Balghonaim to take the role.
By making a film with an all-female cast, Alsemari and the actors were keen to highlight the fact that Saudi women have stories that deserve to be told, and that films need not be driven by male characters. Inspired by classic Hollywood movies such as “Mean Girls” and “Heathers,” Alsemari wanted to put his own, Saudi twist on those stories.
Dunya's Day was selected from over 14,259 submissions from 152 countries. The members of the three-person jury were actor Sheila Vand (“We the Animals”), playwright Young Jean Lee, and filmmaker and photographer Carter Smith (“Jamie Marks Is Dead”).
The winning shorts will be screened on the festival’s final day, Sunday, Feb. 3, at 10:30 a.m. at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City. A touring show of festival shorts, with a lineup to be determined, will screen in theaters nationwide this fall.