Coming to HBO tomorrow, Thursday, October 24:
SAUDI WOMEN’S DRIVING SCHOOL
After the ban on women drivers is lifted in Saudi Arabia, several women embrace this newfound freedom.
Since 1957, women were not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, the only nation in the world with such a ban. Women protested this restriction over the years, facing imprisonment and the loss of other freedoms. In September 2017, King Salman issued a decree that the ban would be lifted, effective in June 2018, though activists continued to be persecuted. Erica Gornall’s hour-long project references these continued abuses several times and profiles some activists, while also sharing the experiences of several everyday women whose lives will change with this expanded freedom. Among these stories are a car dealer who has been waiting to learn to drive for years; a chatty Uber driver who happily engages her mostly male customers in discussions around women’s rights; a racecar driver who has waited a long time to legally compete in her own country, and a middle aged widow who nervously but happily takes on driving to free her mother and herself from dependence on taxis and other family members for simple daily tasks. While these profiles are engaging, and the joy demonstrated is at times infectious, Gornall’s film wisely touches on deeper issues at play in Saudi society when it comes to restrictions on women’s liberty, chiefly the continued existence of guardianship laws. These laws position all women, regardless of age or marital status, as subservient to the men in their lives – their fathers, husbands, or brothers – and requires women to seek explicit permission to make major decisions including travel, education, and marriage. While the driving issue might seem resolved, the film makes the case that selective freedoms like this still remain partial and incomplete without full equality under the law.