The Womanhood Issue

Tima Shomali: It’s Time for Arab Women to Shine

Meet the woman behind Netflix's hit series 'AlRawabi School for Girls.'

By Vittoria Volgare Detaille

Tima Shomali. Image by Shukri Lawrence.

Arab women in the filmmaking industry are leaving their mark on the world. They have won or been nominated for some of the most prestigious international awards. Like Twenty Impossibles (2003), by Palestinian filmmaker Anne Marie Jacir, was the first Arab short film to enter an official selection at the Cannes International Film Festival. In the past three years, Lebanese Nadine Labaki, Syrian Waad al-Kateab, British Palestinian Farah Nabulsi and Tunisians Kaouther Ben Hania and Meryam Joobeur all were nominated for Oscars. 

Global streaming service and production company Netflix sees Arab women’s potential as well. In 2021, it released AlRawabi School for Girls, its second original Arabic series. The TV mini-series celebrates women not only on the screen but also behind the camera. Jordanian Tima Shomali co-wrote and directed the show, and the Amman-based company FilmZion, which Shomali founded in 2013, co-produced it. 

Shomali is not new to this industry. As a little girl, she had particularly clear ideas about who she wanted to become. ‘As a child, I used to gather my sisters and cousins, and I created stories. I had my mom’s old video camera, and I would act, write the story and direct it. I’ve always done so many things at the same time. Even for the credits, I would pass the papers in front of the camera,’ she recalls. Today, in her mid-30s, the multi-talented Shomali is more than a director; she is also a producer, writer and actress. ‘In every project, I never do only one thing,’ Shomali comments.

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