Rima Naim is one of the most dynamic female filmmakers working in the Middle East today. Growing up between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, Rima’s initial exposure to the magical world of films was limited due to strict governmental controls, but the one movie theater that did exist in her city, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was enough to spark her imagination and start her on a successful path of film and television production.
One of Rima’s early professional assignments was working as the right hand of Lebanese director MazenFayad, who is one of the best known producers of television commercials in all of Lebanon. Rima picked up quickly and was soon making decisions and providing essential input into Mr. Fayad’s productions. One of the music videos the pair directed,Aa Bali Habibi by popstar and X Factor Middle East judge Elissa reached more than 9 million views, a stunning feat for the region. The news of the brilliant beauty working in television production quickly reached AbboudAyyach, the CEO of Made in Saudi Films, the largest production company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The media mogul instantly took a liking to Rima and her work, and hired her on as the Executive Producer of several important television commercials for clients such as Saudi government, as well as corporate videos for Ikea, one of the company’s largest corporate accounts. She is also currently working on a documentary for Made in Saudi Films that chronicles the construction of the highest flag in the world, which is currently under construction in Jeddah.
After graduating with a Masters Degree from the prestigious New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, California, Rima landed an impressive list of film and music video productions in the U.S. working in a multitude of capacities – from Executive Producer, to Director, to Assistant Director, to Stage Designer, and beyond. Her film ‘The Successor of Katunga’, an African fairy tale, was awarded at numerous U.S. film festivals; her film ‘napkins’ is lauded as a “midwestern U.S. classic”; the music videos she directed for Indian artist Jaymo, as well as Lebanese superstar Nima, have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times by fans around the world, as well as the “Broken Dreams” video Rima did for Russian popstar Irson Kudikova. Rima’s next scheduled film release is the ‘The Tsarevich’, which is the heretofore untold story of the last emperor of Russia, starring Mark Moses (of Desperate Housewives and Mad Men fame).
Though Rima has proven that she has all the skill and talent to excel alongside others, her brilliance becomes obvious when one sees her original works. She is well-known for her experimental use of visual techniques, and for her portrayal of strong female characters. When Rima is at the reins of a film, she prefers to tell stories about the lives of women. Her films Milena,Breathe, and Nothing Happened all star strong female leading characters dealing with love, loss, abuse and other struggles.Each of these films will be on the festival circuit in 2014and 2015.
It is an understatement to say that the film industry in the Middle East is a “boys’ club”. Many cultural and religious practices pose difficulties for women to work in the challenging field, which require long hours and working in close physical proximity, but Rima has managed to overcome these obstacles with grace and style. Though she cites directors Paul Thomas Anderson, David Lynch, Godard and Agnes Varda as some of her inspirations, Rima has shown herself to be a true trailblazer, lighting a path for other female filmmakers to follow.
It was only last year that the first feature length film directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa Al Mansour, was released in Saudi Arabia. Will Rima Naim be the second woman to release a film in the kingdom? This reporter will be eagerly waiting to see.