Netflix has launched a screenwriting programme to train 20 Egyptian women from outside Cairo and bring to light undiscovered talent.
The streaming service has teamed up with Sard, a writers’ hub founded in 2016 by Egyptian scriptwriter Mariam Naoum, for the five-day initiative that starts in September.
Because She Created will be hosted in Cairo and will include storytelling classes, creative expression sessions, talks and daily activities such as film viewings.
It is part of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, which was started last year with the aim of creating opportunities for under-represented communities within the entertainment industry through training.
“Through our partnership with Sard, we are mining a wealth of untapped potential from Egypt, an integral component of the Mena creative community,” said Ahmed Sharkawi, director of Arabic Series at Netflix.
Such initiatives help the streaming platform to create more diverse content and “ensure that women are represented both on screen and behind the camera”, said Sharkawi.
Last year, Netflix hosted a virtual panel discussion on the evolving role of women in the Arab film industry. It followed this up with a talk featuring actress Hend Sabry, star of the Netflix original Egyptian series Finding Ola, at the Cairo International Festival in December.
In April, Netflix awarded a grant worth $250,000 to five female Arab filmmakers to help them bring their projects to life on screen. And last month, it launched its Because She Created collection on the platform, showcasing 21 films from female Arab directors.
They include Let’s Talk, from Egypt’s Marianne Khoury, about the life of her uncle, legendary Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, Stateless by Moroccan director Narjiss Nejjar, looking at North African history from a female perspective and Tunisian filmmaker Leyla Bouzid’s A Tale of Love and Desire. Set in Paris, the film charts the romance between a French-Algerian student and his Tunisian university classmate.
Sard — which is Arabic for storytelling — is a hub for aspiring screenwriters to develop their projects, improve their writing skills and practise their creative freedom, according to its website. Its goal is to create Arabic content that caters to an Arabic audience.
“Sard believes that expressing oneself through writing is the first step to self-discovery, and we’re proud to have discovered talents through this programme who we feel will one day become scriptwriters of the future,” said Naoum, Sard's founder and chief executive.
“Women in the region, in particular, need this kind of incubation and technical support to gain access to opportunities that advance their professional growth in an industry where their presence is still limited.”
Naoum’s credits include Between Two Seas, which won Best Narrative Feature at the Brooklyn Film Festival in 2019, and One-Zero, winner of the Muhr Arab Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2009.