In 2018, the entire world lived a watershed moment when Saudi Arabia decided to lift its 35-year ban on cinemas, granting movie theaters license across the kingdom. Prior to that moment, Fatima AlBanawi belonged to a generation of burgeoning Saudi talents whose passion for art and cinema conflicted with their attempts to communicate with the international industry markets and their conservative community. Nowadays, AlBanawi's name can be spotted in successful serial dramas on Netlix and Shahid.net, in addition to several Saudi features that have been selected at international festivals and film events.
In 2016, Fatima starred in the light-hearted romantic comedy Barakah Meets Barakah, by director Mahmoud Sabbagh, which marks the first Saudi feature to compete at Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), and was Saudi’s official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language. In addition, Fatima also landed leading roles in Saudi series, Bashar(2017), then Roll'em film, by Abdulelah Alqurashi, which marks the first Saudi film to be released in Saudi theatres in March, 2019, as well as Shahid’s Omm Al Qalayed series.
In 2020, Al-Banawi surprised both local and Arab audiences in what was considered a case study for filmmakers during Covid-19, when she co-wrote, co-directed and starred in Al-Shak serial drama, a Shahid.net original, which she shot fully from home during the global pandemic. In the same year, Fatima also took part in the Egyptian horror series Paranormal that achieved a huge success among audiences inside and outside the Arab world, premiering on Netflix.
Fatima’s most recent works include Champions, written and directed by Spanish award-winning filmmaker Manuel Calvo, who co-wrote with the Oscar-nominee Javier Fesser. The film, which is an adaptation of the successful Spanish film Campeones, was released in Saudi and Emarati theatres in March, 2022. Currently, Fatima is expecting the commercial release of her thriller film Route 10, which stars her and co-produced by MBC Studios and ImageNation. The two films landed their world premiere at Red Sea International Film Festival, 2021. Most recently, she finished shooting her upcoming film Sawa.
In 2021, Fatima starred in the Egyptian thriller series 60 Minutes, which premiered on Shahid.net. Directed by Mariam Ahmady, Fatima stars in the series opposite Yasmin Raeis, Shereen Reda, Mahmoud Nsr and Sawsan Badr.
As a director, Fatima joined the 43rd edition of Cairo International Film Festival, opening the Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition with her first short film Until We See Light. The short is part of the Omnibus feature Becoming that brings together five short films led by five Saudi women directors. In 2021, her debut feature Basma received funding from Red Sea International Film Festival, which was announced within the activities of the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Both her films Becoming and Champions were part of the Red Sea International Film Festival
During the same year, she was selected as a jury member at the Feature Film Competition of the 11th Malmo Arab Film Festival, and Horizons of Arab Cinema Competition of the 43rd Cairo International Film Festival alongside Egyptian director Tamer Mohsen, and Lebanese director Hady Zaccak. In addition, she attended the 78th Venice International Film Festival, as an official brand ambassador for the French luxury manufacturer Cartier International SNC in KSA and the Middle East, in the launch of its latest high jewelry collection; Sixéme Sens.
2021 also witnessed the selection of Fatima as a member of Saudi Arabia's first professional association for theatre and performing arts. The nomination came for her contributions to the realms of theatre and art in general, where she directed several social and dramatic theatrical shows, including The Straight Circle which took the form of street theatre, and others that toured internationally. From the first touring Biennale in the world inaugurated in Buenos Aires, to Palais de Tokyo in Paris, AlBanawi travels locally and internationally to perform creative human stories that touch the audiences, believing in its role in changing stereotypes, promoting the community engagement, exploring minorities and shedding the light on marginalized communities and stories. This made the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris call her the (Sophie Calle of Saudi Arabia) after the great reception of her performance Amours Saoudiennes.
She directed several performances and theatre plays that toured internationally. From the first touring Biennale in the world inaugurated in Buenos Aires, to Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Al-Banawi travels locally and internationally to perform human stories. Though a challenging endeavor in private society, she believes in the power of storytelling to channel vulnerable and intimate conversations, making the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris call her the (Sophie Calle of Saudi Arabia) after the great reception of her performance Amours Saoudiennes. This passion for psycho-social development and the arts is not new; it started in 2010 when Al-Banawi co-founded the Theatre of the Oppressed chapter in Jeddah and staged one of its plays at Harvard later on. In 2019, her theatre work as director and actress in The Straight Circle play has also caught the attention and made headlines for surpassing the classic elite structure as it moved to the streets of the city.
Fatima received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology at Effat University in Jeddah, and an MA in Social Studies from Harvard University with a focus on representing women and the Arab identity in cinema and literature. Afterward, she returned to Saudi Arabia and worked on The Other Story Project which gathers 5,000 on-the-go personal stories by anonymous people from Jeddah. Fatima Later conveyed these stories to a performance series and used them in creating her artwork A Blink of an Eye, to be selected after that by Time Magazine as part of its Young Generation Leaders list in 2018.
Today's leading actress opens the doors to her studio Alf Wad [Arabic for A Thousand Valley], making it a hub to build and foster actors and filmmakers in the film community. She has been trained in the Undesirable Elements Theatre Method by Ping Chong & Company, in addition to Improv by both, Improv Playhouse of San Francisco and Lebanese award-winning director, Lucien Bourjeily, and in acting methods by both Luke Lehner Studios and member of the Actor's Studio in LA, Gerald James.
Official Website: fatimaalbanawi.com