[10/14/19 - 10:00 AM]
Documentary "Saudi Women's Driving School" Debuts October 24, Exclusively on HBO
This eye-opening film documents the lives of self-reliant women in Saudi Arabia who challenge western stereotypes of their country's gender dynamics, while exercising their long-awaited right to drive.

[via press release from HBO]


For many Americans, getting a driver's license is a mundane rite of passage. For women in Saudi Arabia, who were only allowed to drive legally starting in June 2018, it's a critical step along the road to independence. Debuting THURSDAY, OCT. 24 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), SAUDI WOMEN'S DRIVING SCHOOL documents this change with a rarely seen look inside the Kingdom and unprecedented access to The Saudi Women's Driving School, the largest such complex in the world.

The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and partners' streaming platforms.

This eye-opening film documents the lives of self-reliant women in Saudi Arabia who challenge western stereotypes of their country's gender dynamics, while exercising their long-awaited right to drive. A rare, first-hand look into the private homes and spaces in which these strong-willed women exist, the documentary explores how all women's lives are changing in Saudi Arabia, the hope that they have for greater gender equality, and the challenges they face in a country that appears to be making strides forward, but continues to silence and jail female activists.

Women featured in the film include Sarah Saleh, a saleswoman at a car showroom who is taking driving lessons for the first time in hopes of finally owning her own car; Shahad al-Humaizi, a rideshare driver who sees the lifting of the ban as the first step towards greater rights for women; and Amjad Al-Amri, an engineering student and part-time racing driver who dreams of winning a world championship.

In September 2017, King Salman announced by royal decree that he was removing the ban on female drivers - a law that for decades was seen by critics as one of the clearest signs of discrimination and inequality between the sexes in Saudi Arabia. As a result of the ban being lifted, the capital city of Riyadh is now home to the largest driving school in the world, operated exclusively by and for women. With a staggering 250 cars and 700 instructors, The Saudi Driving School still struggles to meet enormous demands from Saudi women who yearn to get behind the wheel.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where women were not allowed to drive and while most women in the country seem eager to put misogynistic laws in the rearview, the same cannot be assumed for much of the patriarchal Kingdom's male population. Five weeks before the ban was officially lifted, several women who had campaigned for the right to drive were arrested and accused of destabilizing the Kingdom. Nearly 18 months later, the final charges against them have still not been made public by Saudi authorities.

After Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on female drivers, many activists shifted their focus to the issue of male guardianship - a set of laws and social restrictions that require adult Saudi women to get the permission of a male guardian to obtain a passport and travel abroad, among other basic freedoms. But in July 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it would allow women to travel without the permission of a guardian, although rules around marriage still remain.

SAUDI WOMEN'S DRIVING SCHOOL was directed by Erica Gornall; produced by Nick London; executive produced by Fiona Stourton. For HBO: executive producer, Nancy Abraham; senior producer, Sara Rodriguez.

  [october 2019]  

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