In 1990, women in Saudi Arabia were banned from driving cars, amongst other freedoms. Women who were caught driving would be arrested and imprisoned, and women who spoke out against the ban likewise. Today, Saudi Arabia is in a post-oil era, where dual incomes are required to live, and driving is essential for work, shopping, obtaining basic health services, and freedom.
In September 2017, Saudi King Salman would lift the ban on women driving effective 2018, and this decision would have a significant impact on the women in the kingdom. Documentarian Erica Gornall would be given unprecedented access to capture on film this momentous change in Saudi culture in her movie, Saudi Women’s Driving School.
“…a large complex, more massive than a racetrack…the school employs over 700 female instructors with 250 cars…”
Gornall’s documentary centers on the training school known as Saudi Driving School. It’s a large complex, more massive than a racetrack, featuring roads designed to teach its students how to drive in all traffic situations. It’s the largest driving school in Saudi Arabia. Its students are almost exclusively women, and the school employs over 700 female instructors with 250 cars for training.
Before you tune out, this is not really a documentary about teaching Saudi women how to drive, nor is it a long sexist, woman-driver joke. Saudi Women’s Driving School is about the conditions that led up to the ban that suppressed fundamental freedoms, life after the ban, and the fight for women’s equality that lays ahead.