The Poetess

Stefanie Brockhaus / Andreas Wolff

Germany 2017, 90 min.


Spoken language: Arabic

Subtitles: English

Festival year: 2018

Hissa Hilal, a 43-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, achieved international fame when she was one of the few women to compete in a televised talent search for Arabic poets. Her poetry is controversial: she criticizes extremist fatwas and is an advocate of women’s rights.

Million’s Poet is a TV show which is broadcast from Abu Dhabi and is extremely popular in the Arabic world. Rather than having the participants sing or dance, as competitors do on many Western TV shows, the point here is the art of poetry. Most of the competitors are men. When Hissa first sees the show on television, she is struck to see that there are so few noteworthy female contestants, so she signs up. To her delight, she is invited to compete, quickly achieving international fame with her critical poems about extremism and unequal treatment of men and women.

Based on talks with Hissa and TV clips from the show, the documentary paints a picture of Saudi society: how public life changed drastically for women over the years due to increasing strictness and increasingly extreme religious rules and regulations.




Brockhaus / Wolff

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Cat & Docs


Talkshows & debates

The Poetess: Q&A with Laila al-Zwaini

Sunday, March 25, 2018 - 13:45

After the screening we discuss the position of women in Saudi Arabia, the importance of poetry and literature, and political developments in the region with Laila al-Zwaini.

The Poetess: Q&A with Floor Beuming of Amnesty International

Monday, March 26, 2018 - 19:00

Floor Beuming and others join us to speak about the political situation in Saudi-Arabia, the position of women and the importance of poetry and literature in the region.