Award-winning Abu Dhabi-based filmmaker Nancy Paton and reformed Hollywood wild child Lindsay Lohan are hoping to be among the first to capitalise on the return of cinema to Saudi Arabia, as well as the liberalisation of gender roles in the kingdom, when they shoot female-centric feature Frame in Riyadh this September.
The film will star Lohan as Annabelle, a society photographer who accepts a job as a teacher in a women-only Saudi university following a personal crisis. The synopsis of the film says that after moving to the kingdom, Annabelle is forced to question her views on women, marriage and feminism and accept that although she may be the teacher, she does not have all the answers.
Paton tells us that the film will shoot in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with a cast and crew made up largely of Emirati and Saudi talent and predominantly women. The film is particularly topical, she explains: "Female empowerment is high on the [Saudi] agenda with the development of women driving from June 2018," she says. "Frame will be one of the first Saudi bilingual films that comes out from the country after women start driving and cinema returns, and it will completely focus on female empowerment."
Paton says that she intends to have the film ready in time to hit the festival circuit in 2019, with a Saudi, regional and global release to follow.
UAE-based Paton, pictured here, won a Director's Guild of America Award last year for her film Choke.
Historically, Saudi Arabia has not been the easiest place to access for either film crews or women, with a complex visa system, tight controls on shooting, and strict laws regarding gender roles offering significant hurdles. Paton is confident things are changing, however: “By the time we go into production all will be good for a female film crew,” she insists.
“Exciting times are ahead for women and film and Saudi Arabia and cinema.”