RIYADH / SAUDI ARABIA : I learned to love movies in a country where cinemas were illegal. My only access to to film as a Saudi girl-

Came through our crummy local video shop in suburban Riyadh where I grew up- Where women were forbidden to enter.

When I was old enough to go on my own, I would wait just outside the door for a male worker to bring me a catalog to flip through, selecting titles that would transport me to places that seemed millions of miles away.

Thanks to Jackie Chan,  Bollywood and Disney I discovered a world beyond our borders. Those videos were the foundation to my crazy dreams of someday making making my own movies.

It's humbling to think about that small girl longing to enter that video store in the early 1990s, to now being permitted attend cinemas around Saudi Arabia to watch the latest movies - like a normal day in so much of the world.

On April 18, the Saudi government allowed a movie, ''Black Panther'', to be shown in cinemas for the first time in decades, part of series of cultural reforms sweeping my home country.

The word -normal-  has been on my mind lately, For decades Saudis have struggled under the weight of impossibly restrictive regulations to to do the most normal things.   

Visit the cinema. Drive a car. Go to a sporting event. Enjoy music in a public venue.

Yet, my home country appears to be finally moving closer to normal, That may not seem like much to the outside world, but for those of us Saudis who have dedicated our lives to a more normalized approach to the arts - and toward women's improved status in society - it's truly a revolutionary time.

I've made several movies - documentaries, shorts and feature films - about the plight of women in the Arab world.

In 2012 I wrote and directed ''Wadjda'', which was the first feature film to be made inside the Kingdom and my country's first submission for Oscar consideration.

The story of a girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, and her lonely mother, whose life is determined daily by an abrasive driver and a disinterested husband, resonated with audience around the world.

I wanted to show a country that was already shifting - and to depict my hopes for women and young people across Saudi Arabia.

As both a Saudi woman and a film director, I lived for years with restrictions that my home country imposed on the industry and my daily life before traveling the world with my husband, an American diplomat, to study and make films.

I often struggled to do the most basic things as a filmmaker. I had to direct the outdoor scenes for  ''Wadjda''  relegated to a van, with a monitor and a walkie-talkie, to adhere to the strict gender segregation rules.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Operational Research on Normalcy and Future continues to Part 2.  !WOW! thanks author, filmmaker Haifaa AI Mansour.


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