A smash hit reality competition in Saudi Arabia isn't searching for pop stars, but poets, and writer Hissa Hilal made headlines around the world as the first woman to ever make it to the final round, using her televised platform to speak out against religious extremism and champion women's rights.
"The beauty of The Poetess is that Brockhaus and Wolff open a window into Hissa's life that reveal exactly what she's fighting for." Victor Stiff - In The Seats
"When you isolate women, you isolate the soul of the whole society," says Saudi writer Hissa Hilal and subject of The Poetess. Hilal drew worldwide attention as a contestant on the popular Arab TV talent show "Million's Poet," which airs across the region to regular audiences of more than 70 million people. Similar to shows like "American Idol" but for poetry, "Million's Poet" is immensely popular, with a top prize of over a million dollars, and its contestants attain celebrity status. But Hilal is not in it for fame or fortune: "My poetry destroys and destroys seriously." Her confrontational verses critique patriarchal society and religious extremism, protest laws segregating women from men, and urge a tolerant Islam. A self-taught writer with Bedouin roots and a married mother of four, Hilal risks her personal safety to spread her message; her appearances draw death threats. In a country where women need their guardian's consent for any major activity—including travelling, obtaining a passport, getting married or divorced, or signing contracts—Hilal's experience on "Million's Poet" is nothing short of groundbreaking. And as thrilling as her experience is, the warm reception it draws is equally inspiring. In the words of one fan, "[What] I'm seeing is a lot of courage out there, a lady, she's speaking out and she's in niqab. That's something amazing for me."
Stefanie Brockhaus graduated from London College of Communications with a degree in film and television. Her first short film JAM won the Lux Award for Best Experimental Film at the ICA in 2003.
Andreas Wolff is a filmmaker from Munich, Germany. His feature The Captain and His Pirate played at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2014.
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- Director: Stefanie Brockhaus, Andreas Wolff
- Principal Cast: Hissa Hilal
- Premiere Status: NA
- Country: Germany, Saudi Arabia
- Year: 2017
- Running Time: 89 minutes
- Producer: Andreas Wolff
- Screenplay: Stefanie Brockhaus, Andreas Wolff
- Cinematographers: Tobias Tempel, Stefanie Brockhaus
- Editors: Hansjorg Weissbrich, Anja Pohl
- Music: Sebastan Zenke
- Website: Official Film Website
- Filmography: Brockhaus: Some Things are Hard to Talk About (2016); On the Other Side of Life (2009) Wolff: The Captain and His Pirate (2013); On the Other Side of Life (2009)
- Language: Arabic
- Has Subtitles: Yes
- Format: DCP
- International Sales: Cat & Docs