RIYADH -SAUDI ARABIA : I learned to love movies in a country where cinemas were illegal.

My only access to film  as a Saudi girl came through my crummy local video shop in suburban Riyadh where I grew up, where women were forbidden to enter. 

Thanks to Jackie Chan, Bollywood and Disney I discovered a world beyond our own borders. Those videos were the foundation for my crazy dream of someday 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 to attend cinemas around Saudi Arabia to watch the latest movies - like a normal day in so much of the world.

As a major influencer in the Islamic World , Saudi Arabia sets the tone for how  millions of people around the globe approach societal standards and religious life.

With the softening of our stance  of the  arts  and  societal restrictions in general,  the message to  zealots  and  ultraconservatives everywhere seems more clear :

''You are no longer part of mainstream''. 

I am thrilled that ''Black Panther'' was the first film officially screened in kingdom earlier this month.

It represents everything I love about cinema, and provide the audience with conversations about identity, politics and diversity, through an action-movie thrill ride.

To experience a phenomenon like this in public, with friends and family to laugh and cringe along with strangers, is a privilege.

It reminds me of when my father transformed our patio   into a makeshift cinema years ago.

Although he was  probably just trying to keep me and my  11  siblings  out of his hair, it was a magical time, of laughter and popcorn under a starry sky.

The simple changes I am witnessing in Saudi Arabia go far beyond movies and are just propelling the country's new momentum.

The lifting of the ban on women drivers was a dream that I had all but given up years ago.

It has always been one of those symbols in the global psyche, along with the movie theaters, that has defined us as a people and a country. 

The Honor and Serving of latest Operational Research on the state of the world continues to Part 3.

!WOW!  thanks Haifaa AI Mansour, a Saudi Arabian film  director whose latest film is  ''Mary Shelley''.


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